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Visiting hours are over

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | December 16, 2020 1:07 AM

Kootenai Health announced Tuesday the hospital’s visiting hours will be sharply restricted.

Beginning today, with certain exceptions, no visitors will be allowed into Kootenai Health.

“Because we are continuing to see an increase in our community’s positivity rate, we are adjusting our visitor restrictions to protect our patients and staff members from community COVID-19 exposures,” Dr. Karen Cabell, chief physician executive for Kootenai Health, said in a statement. “It was a difficult decision to make, but it is our responsibility to provide a safe healing environment for our patients.”

The news comes as elective surgeries have been suspended at Kootenai Health.

The Coeur d’Alene Press has learned that the hospital will re-institute its emergency policy and will not perform elective surgeries until at least mid-January.

Two Kootenai Health employees told The Press they received word via email Tuesday morning that elective surgeries were to be put on hold. A third employee confirmed the decision Tuesday, as well.

"The largest challenge in supporting the hospital is staffing," the email read. "A team of administrators and physicians reviewed all options and determined that reducing the surgery schedule would allow the most staff members to be available for redeployment in other areas."

Kootenai Health will allow certain exceptions for visitors, including for pediatric patients age 17 and under; patients who are at the end of life; patients who request spiritual support; and non-COVID-19 patients with no pending tests.

No timetable was given for a return to normal visitor hours.

The community's recent positivity rate, which per the state's coronavirus website was most recently 24%, and current Kootenai Health census will be reviewed weekly to determine how and when the surgery schedule can resume and in what capacity.

In a Tuesday night email, Kootenai Health communications specialist Andrea Nagel confirmed the decision to postpone inpatient and outpatient elective surgeries starting Thursday and running until at least January 10.

It's important to note," Nagel said, "screening and imaging procedures that occur in outpatient settings — including colonoscopies, mammograms, cardiac stress tests, ultrasounds, MRIs and similar procedures — will not be affected. Additionally, the family birth center and emergency department are open and continuing to provide patient care."

The hospital last implemented the policy to suspend elective operations Oct. 21, as local COVID-19 hospitalizations reached all-time highs.

On Tuesday morning, Kootenai Health had 80 COVID-19 patients occupying hospital beds, with 24 in critical care, its highest critical care population to date.

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