Hospitals To Allow Family At Last Moments Of Life

Following a public outcry, New York Health officials issued new guidelines ordering hospitals to improve communications with patients’ families and allowing a family member to be present at the last moments of life.

By reporter

Because of the contagious nature of Covid-19, hospitals have been completely quarantining patients, not allowing even one family member in. As a result, it has been extremely difficult for many family members to receive any status updates on their loved ones.

Over 30,000 signed an urgent petition to Governor Andrew Cuomo to allow a family member in the hospital room of a patient with Coronavirus. The public outcry has caused New York State to amend its guidance, and will now allow a single family member to be at their side during their last moments of life.

On Friday, Health Department officials issued new guidelines, which state, “Hospitals should develop clear protocols for communicating with family members or caregivers of any patient who do not have a support person at the bedside. This should include considerations for assisting patient and family member communication through remote methods when possible, for example, via phone or video call.”

The new guidance defines “imminent end-of-life situations” as “a patient who is actively dying, where death is anticipated within less than 24 hours.”

Other exceptions include pediatric patients, women giving birth, imminent end-of-life situations, and “medically necessary” such as a patient with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and patients with cognitive impairments including dementia.

Additionally, the guidelines call on hospitals in New York state to develop protocols for communicating with patients’ families during the coronavirus pandemic.

For most “medically necessary,” pediatric, and “end of life” situations, two people may be designated as official support persons, but only one may be in the hospital at a time. For women giving birth, only one person may be designated as a support person.

Support persons must be screened to ensure they do not have COVID-19 symptoms (e.g., fever, sore throat, runny nose, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, and diarrhea), wear personal protective equipment, and not leave the patient’s room except when entering and exiting the hospital.

More than 10,000 New Yorkers have already died from the virus, and close to 200,000 have tested positive.

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