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Opinion: Hospital should amend policies to allow visitation for vaccinated
Northeast Georgia Medical Center Emergency Room.jpg
The entrance to the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Emergency Room is seen Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. - photo by Shannon Casas

On Aug. 19, my husband of 20-plus years was hit head-on by a distracted driver and taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center. He was admitted into the ICU, in critical condition, with a severe traumatic brain injury. 

When he was admitted, visiting hours were already restricted due to COVID. On Aug. 24, after being inundated with mostly unvaccinated patients, the hospital stopped visitations altogether. The exceptions being for “end of life.” While I am grateful that he is expected to survive, I am very disappointed in the hospital. 

My husband has been disabled since 2008. As his caregiver, I have always stayed with him during hospitalizations and coordinated his care. This is a right protected by federal law. Now, our only contact is through one 30-minute Zoom call per day. I am rarely able to speak to a doctor in-depth and am having to educate myself on his condition by Googling about his chart notes and test results. This has been beyond traumatic for me and, as he begins to wake up, I can only imagine how my husband must feel.   

When the pandemic began, we heard the heartbreaking stories of hospital lockdowns and loved ones separated during tragedy. Didn’t we learn anything from that? Why hasn’t policy already been put into place to prevent those same scenarios from happening again?  

For almost a week, I watched the hospital admit visitors using what seemed to be the “honor system.” They simply asked people if they had symptoms of or had been around anyone with COVID and then took their word for it. They didn’t even bother doing a temperature check. 

Why haven’t they already restricted entry to just the vaccinated? In fact, how many more people might have gotten vaccinated if it were required to visit a loved one? 

At this point, why aren’t COVID patients separated from non-COVID patients entirely —  especially in the ICU, where the most fragile and critically ill patients are?

My husband and I got vaccinated months ago. We have done our part to help protect ourselves and our community. I am disappointed that people are not seeing this vaccine as the miracle of modern medicine that it is, but in this age of fake news and misinformation, I can forgive them for being human and being scared. What I can’t forgive is what Northeast Georgia Medical Center is doing not only to me and my husband but to all their patients and their families. They failed to put policies in place to protect them when they had the opportunity, and now, we are paying the price for their mistake. 

I call on the hospital administrators to amend their policy immediately and facilitate reuniting non-COVID patients with their vaccinated support people. I also ask everyone who has not yet been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible. The faster we come together and beat this disease, the sooner this nightmare will end. 

Melanie Wilson