Letter to the Editor: Visitor Restrictions at MMC

letter to the editor

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Dear Editor:

I am writing as a concerned citizen and Registered Nurse about concerns I have regarding patient care at Marshfield Medical Center (MMC). I have also contacted MMC with my concerns and received no response. This letter has been mailed to leadership there, as well.

As a longtime RN, I am disappointed in MMC’s COVID visitor restrictions statement issued on December 4, 2021. The statement deceptively gives the impression that only the number of visitors will be limited (like at other facilities). In actuality, the policy permits NO VISITORS allowed until the patient’s few last and worst minutes when they are dying.

I believe these restrictions are cruel and inhumane. The medical and nursing profession is ethically bound to cause no further or undue harm and research proves how essential support of family is to recovery from illness. However, at MMC families are forced to abandon their loved ones upon admission and, in some cases, never to see them again. Instead, they are left to wait helplessly by their phones for a few-minute report when staff have time in their busy schedules. Even prisoners and pets receive better rights!

I speak not only as a RN, but from personal experience. My family endured this inhumane policy for 16 days when my brother was hospitalized at MMC after a stroke. He was left at MMC alone, unable to talk or move himself, in the care of varied staff strangers. MMC staff work hard, but for people suffering from conditions like my brother, there is no patient advocacy without help from patients’ families. Staff’s nursing and medical skills aren’t a substitute for a family’s love, continual presence, and the extra and helpful set of eyes that are critical to keeping patients safe (so things aren’t missed) and giving them hope and motivation.

This proven knowledge is only applied at MMC to hospitalized OB, pediatric or oncology patients – who incidentally are the most immune-suppressed but still are allowed 1-2 visitors. My family’s requests to visit my brother were repeatedly denied, despite qualifying for the listed “exceptions” that leadership could consider in individual cases.

In short, it seems a double standard exists. The same science that led to mandating staff to get vaccinated (so they are safe to freely come and go between shifts) didn’t apply to our documented fully-vaccinated family members, who were not allowed to visit my family member until the 4th and final “end of life” exception was met.

What all hospitalized patients desperately need and deserve is the dignity of allowing their family to physically visit when they are still living. These visits can have a positive impact when all hope would otherwise be lost. Families would do anything possible to see their hospitalized loved ones, however they aren’t given any recourse to do so. Additionally, they are fearful of upsetting the people that are caring for their loved ones.

Out of desperation, family members are reduced to the perverse psychology of agonizingly hoping they don’t get the call to visit their loved one because they know it can only mean they are dying.

My family was not offered any support the entire time of my brother’s hospitalization and had to pursue religious help externally as staff falsely told us they weren’t allowed to see patients due to COVID. Such blanket oppressive rules like these need to be revised to adjust for new updated information and circumstances so healthy change can happen – especially when they infringe on patients’ rights and don’t follow best acceptable practices.

MMC leadership has imposed these harsh restrictions without pre-planning logical interim steps. For example, testing visitors or checking vaccination status would be a logical solution for families. However, I feel this isn’t being considered because this would take more effort on MMC’s part. The existing “no questions asked” blanket rule is simpler and more cost-effective for MMC.

Needlessly, the current policy makes everyone else’s life (and death) unbearably more difficult. My hope in sharing my experience is to expedite change so that others do not have to suffer further injustice.

Sincerely,

Marlene Bednar, RN

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