Munson Healthcare limits visitor access as COVID-19 hospitalizations increase

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the rise, Munson Healthcare has limited visitor access for all of its northern Michigan facilities. 

The health care system announced the precautionary move Friday, saying the changes are necessary to ensure the safety of patients and staff as the virus and its variants impact the region and spring break travel increases the risk of spread.

"We all want this pandemic to end, but COVID-19 continues to be a serious public health threat, and as a health system we are here to meet all patient care needs in our communities," said Munson Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Christine Nefcy. "Our visitation restrictions are an important step to keeping everyone safe and to ensuring our healthcare system can continue to maintain normal operations."

Situations where visitors are allowed include: 

  • One birthing partner or support person, who must be the same person, and one certified doula for obstetrics patients. Those positive for COVID-19 positive are allowed one visitor, with appropriate personal protective equipment. For first ultrasound of new pregnancy only, one support person is permitted.
  • One adult primary caregiver at a time, such as a parent, foster parent or guardian, for pediatric patients 21 years of age or younger. 

Patients can have one support person if the support person is essential to the care of the patient, if the patient has intellectual or developmental disabilities and if the patient needs communication support or assistance.

Patients who are deemed at the end of life can have up to four visitors per day and two at a time. The visitors will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Overnight stays are limited to to obstetrics and pediatrics patients and those with extenuating circumstances.

A spiritual advisor of a patient’s choosing is allowed for one visit along with law enforcement, adult protective services and interpreters. Waiting rooms will be closed off to visitors as well. 

The restrictions apply to Cadillac Hospital, Charlevoix Hospital, Grayling Hospital, Kalkaska Memorial Health Center, Mackinac Straits Health System in St. Ignace, Manistee Hospital, Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Otsego Memorial Hospital in Gaylord, and Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital in Frankfort.

From March 1 to Wednesday, March 23, hospitalizations increased by 633% for adults ages 30-39 and by 800% for adults ages 40-49, the Michigan Health & Hospital Association said in a statement. 

Statewide, COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled over that time period, according to tracking by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

As of Saturday, Michigan added 4,670 new COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths and ended the week with 27,758 new cases. It's the fifth weekly increase in a row and the highest weekly total since 28,072 were recorded Dec. 13-19.

Beaumont Health System announced on Wednesday they've also reinstated visitor restrictions, limiting who can see patients.