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NSHC Bans Visits to QCC Over COVID-19 Concerns

The Nome hospital at dusk, viewed from the front, with light streaming through its windows.
Nome’s Norton Sound Regional Hospital. Photo: Laura Kraegel, KNOM.

The Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC) is implementing a visitation ban for Quyanna Care Center (QCC) and stricter rules for visiting the regional hospital in Nome and village clinics. NSHC is citing precautions for the novel coronavirus as the reason for the change. There are currently no confirmed cases of the virus in Alaska.

NSHC is also encouraging self-quarantine for those find themselves with flu-like symptoms or respiratory ailments. If someone becomes ill after traveling to a coronavirus ‘hot-spot’, or comes in close contact with a coronavirus patient, NSHC Public Relations Manager Reba Lean says to pick up the phone first before going straight to the hospital or village clinic.  

“Definitely give the nurse hotline a call before coming into the hospital or clinic. That number is 443-6411.”

That nurse can then decide if a patient needs to come in for treatment, or testing, including the coronavirus test, or if they should stay home.  

The news of visitation changes came in a NSHC press release Monday night, March 9th. All hospital operations, including Acute Care, will be closed to visitors at 7pm, rather than 9pm as normally scheduled. QCC, NSHC’s assisted living center for elders from the Bering Strait region, is only accepting visitors with prior approval from the supervising nurse.

Lean, says she understands that it may be hard for people to have less contact with their loved ones, but she asks them to consider what might be best for hospital and clinic patients.

“Please understand that it’s the best thing we can do for them to limit that contact with others outside the healthcare environment.”

On some special occasions, a visitor may be allowed in certain areas of the hospital with permission from the nursing manager.

“In the Acute Care unit, if a mother is giving birth that would be a special case scenario that a nursing manager would grant approval.”

That approval would include screening of symptoms and a questionnaire about travel or contact history. Lean was unable to answer if NSHC would be screening hospital visitors’ temperatures.

Lean says NSHC is encouraging the public to stay away from the hospital and village clinics unless they have medical business. That includes staying away from the popular hospital café. The hope is to prevent vulnerable populations from being exposed to the flu or other viruses, including the potential coronavirus.

NSHC has not announced a date for lifting the restrictions.

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