Cover Story: H1N1 Flu - Hospital Policy

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

DAVIDSON, NC (WBTV) - A local woman, seven and half months pregnant goes to the hospital. She thinks she's in labor, and has her husband and two year old in tow. But with the hospital's H1N1 policy, no child under the age of 18 is allowed in. With no one to care for her child, what was she supposed to do? As PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson explains hospitals are having to grapple with a swine flu policy and some patients' reality.

This is uncharted territory.

The hospital's job is to keep all of us safe and as healthy as possible. And the virus is very contagious.

They're trying to protect everybody - that's why they have these rules. But, the woman we talked to ran into a snag - which got us asking the question.

When she got pregnant 7 and a half months ago.. Jenny Gatison of Davidson never thought it would be a hospital's H1N1 policy she would be worrying about in the days before her delivery, but that's what she told us when she called our Problem Solvers Team.

"I'm thinking what do I do?" asked Gatison. "Where do I give birth? That's where I'm at."

Her 2-year old son, Vincent is the reason. Last week when Jenny went into contractions.. and went to Presbyterian Hospital in Huntersville with her husband and her toddler.. she was told because of the hospital's H1N1 rules.. her son couldn't be there.

They told her when she delivers-- she is going to have to leave him at home.

Because the family is new to the area.. she says they have no one to leave their son with.

"It is beyond my mind that you would tell me that my husband can't be there for the birth of our daughter because we have a 2-year old and no one to care for him."

Hospitals like Presbyterian and Carolinas Medical Center.. in fact hospitals all across the country have instituted policies prohibiting children under 18 from visiting.. while the swine flu pandemic is underway.

Kids specifically are being targeted because they're more susceptible to H1N1 flu.. have a higher incidence of infection than adults.. and they're often contagious before they exhibit symptoms.

Such a wide-spread ban of children.. all because of the H1N1 flu.. has never been done by hospitals before. However, been put in place to keep patients... and visitors safe.

But it's a policy some believe messes up plans for the perfect birth.

"I really hope that the hospital would look at our particular situation and allow us to be in the hospital that day with our son."

Her hopes to find a solution.. have yielded a successful outcome.

We went to Presbyterian late today about Jenny Gatison's problem.. and they told us they would accommodate the family.. and allow her 2-year old son to be in the birthing suite with his family.

Presbyterian told us they have guidelines in place, but understand special circumstances.

They are making accommodations to let children under 18 visit the hospital.. when special situations come up.

This is something we see more in our area than other cities. Charlotte has a ton of transplants who don't have family here so we're going to encounter this.

Incidentally, Carolinas Medical told us if a similar situation came up with them.. they're not allowing toddlers in birthing suites but would make arrangements for the child to be able to stay in the lobby of the hospital.