Suncoast Hospitals open for visitors once again with COVID-19 protocols

Hospital Visitation

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Hospitals on the Suncoast are beginning to ease up on some of their restrictions as we continue seeing a steady decline in coronavirus cases. Elective surgeries have resumed at all medical facilities in both Sarasota and Manatee Counties, and now, visitors are starting to be allowed back in again. Hospital leaders say they are confident that with their strict guidelines and safety measures, they will be able to contain the spread of COVID-19 and still open their doors.

“Sometimes just the presence of somebody that you love when you’re sick and most vulnerable, is good to cheer you up and lift your spirits, and it’s very unfortunate that we had to take the steps that we did to restrict visitors,” expressed Dr. Michael Schandorf-Lartey, the Chief Medical Officer at Doctors Hospital.

Dr. Schandorf-Lartey says he is so grateful to be able to allow patients to have their family and loved ones visit them, even if it’s on a limited-basis. For the majority of hospitals on the Suncoast, patients will now be allowed one visitor – during limited hours - to prevent having too many people inside the buildings at once. Everyone entering facilities will be screened with temperature checks and must be wearing a mask.

“And we’ll ask about your travel history. If you’ve been out of the area in the last 14 days, and of course, if you’ve been in contact with someone who is COVID positive,” Dr. Schandorf-Lartey said.

Some visitors tell me while they did feel safe during their stay, they did feel the COVID-19 protocols were a little confusing – especially in the maternity ward.

“Once we were in the room, the nurse came in and started checking my wife’s vitals and the baby and all that. An hour and a half later, they said they had to test for COVID, but then the same nurse came back in a full hazmat suit just to do the swab test, but they only tested her and not me,” explained Luis Fernandez.

Medical experts say they realize this does sound contradictory, but that there is a reason for the way they do things. Plus, of course, this can change as we continue learning more about COVID-19.

“No one who is symptomatic will be allowed to come into the hospital. If they are asymptomatic, and they are wearing masks and using all other precautions, then the logic is they are not at risk themselves and they will not be putting others at risk either,” explained Dr. Schandorf-Lartey.

However, there still leaves confusion on why testing is only done for some people. “The process and procedures didn’t really make much sense. They would only test her and not me, and what was weird about that is that I could leave the hospital and come back,” said Fernandez.

However, Dr. Schandorf-Lartey says there is also an explanation for that.

“It is not recommended that we test every visitor coming to the hospital. We do test the patient because of their exposure to other caregivers in the hospital, and also for us to be aware of what they do have so we can take better care of them,” he explained.

Sarasota Memorial and Venice Regional Bayfront Hospital do still have strict limitations on visitors. They tell us they hope that the encouraging trends of decreasing cases continue so that they can open up visitation in the next few weeks.

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