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BENNINGTON — Following a change in state restrictions, patients at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of the Southwestern Vermont Health Care network, are now permitted to welcome a visitor — so long as that visitor has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and can prove it.

“Vaccination has made visiting hospitalized patients much safer for everyone, including our staff, other visitors and patients,” said Trey Dobson, SVMC’s chief medical officer, in a news release. “A loved one can play an important role in a patient’s wellbeing and recovery, and we are pleased to be able to safely welcome one vaccinated visitor per patient back to SVMC.”

Vermont Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith announced the change in guidance for hospitals at a press briefing last week, adding that facilities retain “discretion to use more stringent standards” regarding visitation if they so choose.

SVMC’s previous policy, in accordance with state guidance, “indicated that only a required caregiver ... was allowed to accompany a patient in the emergency department, perioperative department, adult inpatient units and outpatient appointments for adults, and pediatric appointments and inpatient stays,” with exclusions “for expectant parents to have a certified doula in addition to their required caregiver and those at the end of life to have up to two visitors at a time,” according to a news release from SVHC.

With the enactment of the new policy, patients in several departments — including the emergency department, inpatient units, and adult outpatient visits — who do not need a required caregiver may instead welcome a fully vaccinated visitor. An individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their final required dose. The previous policy remains in effect for the perioperative, women’s and children’s, and pediatric departments, meaning that required caregivers, whether or not they are vaccinated, may accompany those patients.

Visitors under the new policy will be asked to show their COVID-19 vaccination record card or a photo of the card on their mobile device, according to the news release.

Visitation hours are noon to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.

Patients, caregivers and visitors still need to stop at check-in desks at entrances to the hospital, medical office building and standalone practice sites, where they will have their temperatures checked.

All are expected to wear masks or face coverings; patients who are symptomatic or who have been exposed to COVID-19 will receive medical-grade face masks.

Individuals are expected to sanitize their hands when entering and leaving the building, units and rooms.

Other hospitals, including those in the University of Vermont Health Network, have announced similar changes to visitor policies in recent days.

Luke Nathan can be reached at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com.


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