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Sanford Health System Restricting Visitors

Sheldon, Iowa — Sanford Sheldon has announced that the Sanford Health System is instituting a new visitor policy to protect the health and safety of its patients and staff in response to the COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) pandemic. The policy is system-wide, including the Good Samaritan System.

As of Friday, March 13th, the visitors to Sanford facilities will be limited to immediate family members only, and one visitor per patient. Sanford officials say that family members who visit a Sanford Health facility will be screened as they enter to check for respiratory illness symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, and will be asked about recent travel. Access will also be limited to a few specific entry points in each facility.

At a press conference on Thursday, March 12th, Sanford Sheldon CEO Rick Nordahl stated that the changes are taking place to follow the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. He says some people are “in somewhat of a panic,” but while preventative steps are being taken, there is no reason for panic.

Nordahl also introduced those present to a new resource. 211 is a three-digit helpline that connects anyone with local support and resources. Professionals are trained to quickly assess a caller’s needs and identify the best solution. 2-1-1 is free, confidential, and available at any time. He says the 211 number is now also being used as a COVID-19 hotline. He says that at Sanford Sheldon, they are asking everyone who thinks they may be infected with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) to start by calling 211.

Nordahl emphasizes that if you think you have COVID-19 (Coronavirus), do NOT just show up at the clinic. He says they want you to call 211 to see if you have to come in, and then if they say you do — they want you to make ANOTHER call — call the clinic at 712-324-5356. When you call that number, they’ll tell you how to proceed. The idea is, if you are infected, they don’t want you to come to the same entrance as others and wait in the same waiting room. They want to keep you away from others so you don’t spread the virus.

Nordahl says that the three open but controlled entrances to Sanford Sheldon will be the main hospital entrance on Highway 18, the clinic entrance on the back side of the facility, and the emergency department. He says if those doors are locked, you can enter each vestibule and use the phone provided to request entry.

As far as Sanford Sheldon Senior Care and Good Samaritan Centers — the long-term care facilities including both skilled nursing and assisted living centers are restricting visitors. Only those who need to enter the facilities such as employees and essential personnel will be allowed to do so at this time. Sanford is working with families with critical needs on a case-by-case basis. Nordahl says if a resident’s family member takes them to appointments, that will be allowed. But basically, the facilities are accepting no visitors. Similar policies are in effect at other northwest Iowa medical and long-term-care facilities, both owned by Sanford and otherwise. It is suggested you call before you go, so you know what to expect.

Nordahl says that they are also requesting that volunteers not report to volunteer.

Nordahl emphasizes that they have seen no cases of COVID-19 in Sheldon, and in fact, have not tested anyone yet. Nordal and O’Brien County Public Health Nurse Administrator Judy Nieuwenhuis say that at this time, the risk is still low, and they are more concerned with Influenza in our area.

As far as the timeline for going back to normal, Nordahl says that is unknown at this time. He says the new policy may stay in effect for two months or even more, but it is always being evaluated.

Sanford officials say to protect yourself from COVID-19 (and other viruses) you should:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Cover your cough and sneezes.
Wash your hands often (for at least 20 seconds) and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care
Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces

Photo caption: O’Brien County Public Health Nurse Administrator Judy Nieuwenhuis talks with Sanford Sheldon Medical Center CEO Rick Nordahl

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