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Hospital visitor restrictions hard on River Valley family

A River Valley family is hoping a local hospital will reconsider visitor policy for a loved one in ICU.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — As the number of positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continues to rise, some local hospitals are implementing more restrictions on visitors for the greater good.

A Fort Smith woman says the policy is impacting her family's ability to care for her mother-in-law.

The family is not alone. Many others are struggling with being unable to visit their loved ones in the hospital.

About two weeks ago, Phyllis Carpenter of Roland had a stroke.

She was taken to the intensive care unit at Baptist Health in Fort Smith.

But recently her family were told they had to leave.

"There's been a lot of crying. I am the daughter in law, but I have watched them try to get a grasp on this understanding that she is needing them," Aneisha LeMonier, Phyllis Carpenter's daughter-in-law said.

Earlier this week, Baptist Health put a temporary suspension on all routine in-person visits.

With exceptions being made on a case-by-case basis for "patients who have altered mental status or special needs where a caregiver provides needed attention to improve patient safety" or "for critically ill patients who are at end of life, in hospice or suffered severe life-threatening trauma."

"We've got an extraordinary situation where neurologically this patient needs that. They can't have someone sitting beside her 24/7," LeMonier said.

The policy changes are to protect patients, healthcare workers, and the community from the spread of a deadly virus.

"Each hospital does what it thinks best for its community. There is a blanket wide policy that we need to be paying very close attention to who's coming to visit with us," Jodiane Tritt, Executive Vice President Arkansas Hospital Association said.

That means asking screening questions and, in most cases, taking visitor's temperature.

LeMonier points to a CDC guideline that states, "if the restriction of all visitors is implemented, facilities can consider exceptions on end-of-life situations or when a visitor is essential for the patient's emotional well-being and care."

"The response that I got was if we did it for you, we would have to do it for all," LeMonier said.

Phyllis' family say the care she is getting at Baptist is excellent.

They just hope the hospital will reconsider their case and allow a family member to care for Phyllis in this time of need.

Her family says she's going to be on a long road to recovery.

It could be weeks or even months before she can return home.

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