Mask Making

MASK UP, Fairbanks. This sign at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital says it all. Photo courtesy Mishelle Nace.

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital is putting up more restrictions on visitors in light of the rising number of Covid-19 patients and people transmitting the virus in the Interior.

To summarize the restrictions, one visitor or support person is allowed per patient, and two people can visit patients receiving end of life care. Parents are permitted to visit their minor children. Full visitation restrictions can be viewed at www.foundationhealth.org/covid19/visitor_restrictions

“These restrictions can be frustrating for everyone, certainly to visitors and patients, but to employees too,” Kelly Atlee, communications director for Foundational Health Partners, wrote in an email to the News-Miner. “We understand the important role that families play in a healthy recovery for patients — they’re an important part of the care plan.”

Atlee explained that with Fairbanks showing the worst virus transmission rate in the state, and the hospital lacking equipment and admitting a high number of patients, hospital officials have to put these restrictions to limit the risk to their patients and staff.

On Monday, Fairbanks Memorial reported that the number of Covid-positive patients was higher than they “have seen throughout the entire pandemic,” according to the internal FHP email Atlee shared with the News-Miner.

“These patients are younger (we have patients in their 20s), much sicker and taking longer, sometimes 2-3 weeks in the hospital, to recover,” the email said.

Since the patients tend to be in worse conditions, the risk of them dying is growing, according to the email. Besides, existing patients staying longer limit the number of beds for new patients.

The hospital is also reporting a lack of medical equipment.

“We are close to ‘divert’ status based on lack of additional respiratory equipment,” the email read. “This means as new patients need to be admitted, for any kind of care (heart attack, broken leg, etc.), they will be assessed for our capacity to provide care to them and they might need to be medevac’d to an Anchorage or Seattle hospital.”

Dr. Mark Simon, an emergency physician at the hospital, clarified that right now no one needs to be transferred from the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, but those conversations are happening as the hospital is approaching its capacity.

The hospital staff is asking the state for more oxygen delivery units needed for Covid-19 patients, but so far they haven’t obtained them. The medical facility also needs more staff, Simon said.

Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMlocal.