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Idaho Falls hospital sets up controlled access to reduce COVID-19 risk

Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls has set up access restrictions to combat COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

An Idaho Falls hospital is the first institution in the state to set up access-restriction controls for patients and staff to reduce the risk of contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls established a controlled entry system at its main hospital facility on March 5.

While the entire facility and its emergency room remain open and fully operational, non-emergency room patients and visitors are now restricted to entering the hospital through the main lobby only from 4:30 a.m. through 9 p.m. After 9 p.m., access into the hospital will be through the emergency room entrance only, even for non-emergency patients and visitors.

Upon entering, visitors and patients will be asked two questions to assess risk. Based on their answers, visitors could be asked to delay their visit if they are not well. The hospital also has established a process for visitors who may be ill to visit loved ones in special circumstances. EIRMC but did not disclose any details on what that process would entail in their public statement.

EIRMC will lock all other entryways into the hospital 24/7. The entry restrictions apply only to the hospital proper. Two medical office buildings will currently remain open; however, no access into the main hospital from the medical office buildings will be allowed.

The hospital issued a statement saying: “We are doing all we can to be at the forefront of response and preparedness for COVID-19. For several weeks, EIRMC leaders have prepared on multiple fronts, including clinical protocols, nursing education and ensuring availability of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect our patients and caregivers.”

EIRMC stated further that they were currently examining two additional issues related to the COVID-19 virus: whether and how to require quarantine if staff were exposed to the virus, and how to actively mitigate the risk to vulnerable patients who might come into contact to someone with COVID-19 or any other respiratory illness as it is still flu season.

When EIRMC issued its statement, there were no known cases of the new coronavirus identified yet in Idaho. The hospital remarked that risk was currently low; however, they were taking seriously the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to prepare for possible disruptions to everyday life.”

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