Marion County to lift hospital visitor flu restrictions

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The Marion County Health Department says it's lifting restrictions on hospital visitors starting Friday, Feb. 8.

Health officials put the restrictions in place last month due to concerns about the flu. Now County Health Department Dr. Virginia Caine says regular hospital visitation policies will resume Friday.

Restrictions have been in place since Jan. 18 after flu activity reached its highest level since 2009. Local hospitals agreed to implement the least restrictive option of the 2009 Patient Visitation Tier 1 Policy developed by the Indianapolis Coalition for Public Safety during the H1N1 epidemic.

Dr. Caine says flu activity in Marion County has leveled off and then dropped over the past two weeks. However, she stresses that it's still important to get a flu shot and take precautions to avoid getting sick.

More from Marion County Health Department

During the week of Jan. 27-Feb. 2, Marion County hospitals reported 401 emergency department visits for influenza-like illness, or 4 percent of all visits. This compares to the previous week, Jan. 20-26, when hospitals reported 490 emergency department visits for influenza-like illness, representing 4.96 percent of all visits that week.

Local health officials praised hospitals for implementing the visitor restrictions, saying the policy helped protect patients.

"The implementation of the county-wide visitor restriction policy over the past three weeks has been a perfect example of hospitals coming together to improve outcomes for patients," said Dr. Charles Miramonti, chairman, Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety. "The success of this joint effort, along with the mandatory flu vaccines that several hospital systems enacted this past fall, has helped to prevent the spread of the flu from reaching a critical point."

The Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety is comprised of chief executive, medical, nursing, quality, safety and pharmacy officers from six Indianapolis health systems. In addition, there is participation by the Marion County Public Health Department, and entities such as Eli Lilly, Indiana and Purdue Universities, the Regenstrief Institute, Inc., Indiana Hospital Association and HealthCare Excel. The coalition is a non-profit public charity organization.

"I appreciate the teamwork of everyone who helped implement this policy county-wide to make this community safe," said Indianapolis Director of Public Safety Troy Riggs. "I would like to thank the hospitals, the Indianapolis Coalition for Public Safety, and the Marion County Public Health Department for working together for the common cause of public health and public safety."

Emergency department visits to Marion County hospitals for influenza-like illness (ILI) during the past five weeks:

Dec. 28-Jan. 5 238 visits for ILI 2.2% of all visits

Jan. 6-Jan. 12 403 visits for ILI 3.9% of all visits

Jan. 13-Jan. 19 517 visits for ILI 5.06% of all visits

Jan. 20-Jan. 26 490 visits for ILI 4.96% of all visits

Jan. 27-Feb. 2 401 visits for ILI 4.0% of all visits