Patient and Visitor FAQs
In response to the coronavirus, University of Maryland Medical System has made adjustments to many of our policies in order to safeguard the health of patients, care partners (visitors), staff and our communities.
We understand that there may be many questions surrounding these changes. Please see these frequently asked questions for information or clarification.
Why has UMMS implemented a tiered, color-coded system for patient visitation?
During the pandemic, the COVID-19 health crisis has continually evolved, requiring that UMMS modify our operations, including patient visitation, in order to maintain the safety of patients, team members, care partners and community. Our Strict Patient Safety (Care Partner/Visitor) Policy establishes a tiered, color-coded system that allows UMMS to easily scale patient visitation measures in a safe and thoughtful manner based on current data and in alignment with state and federal guidelines. In addition, it ensures that team members, patients and care partners have clear insight into the System’s current status and related visitation levels.
How long will the current patient safety measures be in effect?
Because this is a rapidly changing situation, we cannot predict how long the current safety measures will remain in place; however, we will maintain them as long as necessary to protect our patients, care partners and staff. Our tiered, color-coded system does create flexibility in visitation as conditions allow. Please see more information on our current visitation level and how the tiered visiting policy works.
What are care partners?
Care partners are the family and friends who visit inpatients and may come along to outpatient visits, in some cases. Whether and how many care partners are permitted will depend on the current visitation level.
What are designated support persons?
Patients name designated support persons to be physically present to support them. A designated support person is not limited to patients with disabilities. This person may be a friend, family member, personal care assistant or disability service provider and may or may not be legally authorized to make decisions for the patient.
Patients with disabilities may have at least one designated support person with them at all visitation levels.
Can inpatients receive care partners or have a support person with them?
It depends. Our System-wide patient safety measures include a tiered system of color-coded visitation levels in order to create more flexibility in visitation as conditions allow. Under this system, visitation may be determined by current COVID-19 conditions, where the patient is receiving treatment, and whether the patient is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.
At the Yellow, Orange and Red Levels, visitation is restricted, but there are some designated exceptions, including:
- At the end of life
- For a hospitalized child
- For patients in active labor or scheduled for delivery
- For patients with disabilities
- For religious or spiritual support from a faith/spiritual leader
For details on these and for a full list of exceptions, please see more information on our current visitation level.
What steps are being taken to ensure that care partners will not be at increased risk of contracting or spreading the virus?
When required in our tiered policy (Levels Yellow through Red), we screen all care partners for symptoms when they enter the hospital. This may include a temperature check at some facilities. All care partners and patients must wear a mask during their visit. Cloths masks are allowed, but medical masks are preferred. Care partners who arrive without a mask will be given one. Please see our masking policy.
Additionally, we are limiting the number of people who may come into the hospital as a care partner. We ask that if you are a care partner waiting for your turn to visit, please do not enter the hospital until the patient is ready for your visit.
Can a visitor hug or be in physical contact with the patient?
Physical contact between a patient and care partner is a personal decision. We recommend that patients and care partners limit physical contact. However, the use of masks and good hand hygiene practices will minimize the risk of transmission of infection from a hug or other direct physical contact.
Do care partners need to keep their masks on while in the patient's room?
For the protection of the patient, care partner and staff, we ask that both care partners and patients wear a mask throughout the visit when masking is required in our tiered policy. This is especially important in case someone is an asymptomatic carrier of the COVID-19 virus.
What special procedures are there for care partners visiting a COVID-19 patient?
Any person coming into the hospital to visit with a patient suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 must review and verbally consent to an Acknowledgement of Risk Form.
Care partners must put on and take off the provided personal protective equipment (PPE) under the direction of staff. Care partners will be provided PPE, including instructions on how to use it.
How are patients who wish to receive religious or spiritual support accommodated?
Patients who are not suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 may request religious or spiritual support from faith/spiritual leaders of their choice, assuming it can be facilitated without disruption to any other patients.
Exceptions will be granted for patients suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 for religious support at the end of life. Faith/spiritual leaders coming into the hospital to offer religious or spiritual support at the end-of-life for patients suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 must review and consent to an Acknowledgement of Risk Form prior to entering the patient's room.
How can I communicate about or with my loved one who is in the hospital?
Our staff members are committed to ensuring that you are updated regularly on the status of your loved one.
We understand staying in touch is important. We encourage you to stay in touch directly via phone, laptops and tablets, when possible.
I've recently visited an UMMS hospital. How do I know if I've been exposed to COVID-19?
We are taking the needed and recommended steps from our local, state and national partners like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep our patients, care partners and staff safe.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask and frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your face and follow all the recommended virus prevention measures.
Do I need to wear a mask when inside an UMMS facility?
Yes. If you already have a mask, please bring it with you to your appointment. Please see our masking policy.
Can I bring my children to appointments?
- At the Yellow, Orange and Red Levels, children under the age of 18 are not permitted to visit the hospital, emergency department or outpatient locations (unless they are the parent or guardian of a hospitalized patient or a care partner of a patient at the end of life).
- An exception may be made for patients at outpatient centers if the child is the infant of a nursing mother. Please speak with your doctor's office when scheduling your appointment if you believe that you will require an exception to this policy.
- At the Green Level, children are permitted.
See the current visitation level.
What should I do if I have cold or flu symptoms and have an appointment at an UMMS hospital?
If you are exhibiting any signs of cold or flu-like symptoms, like a cough or runny nose, you should reschedule your appointment for the health and safety of those around you. If you feel like your symptoms require an appointment, please call in advance to discuss with your doctor's office.
Is UMMS in need of volunteers?
The role of volunteers is an important part of the service and care we provide to our patients. This need is greater than ever as we face the COVID-19 pandemic together. If you are not already a volunteer, please contact your local hospital to inquire about new opportunities for volunteers at this time.
Am I able to volunteer?
Volunteers will be asked to participate in a screening process before entering the hospital if that is currently recommended under the UMMS infection prevention policy. You must also meet the following requirements to serve as a volunteer at any UMMS facility during the duration for the COVID-19 pandemic and until further notice:
- You must be at least 16 years old.
- You must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved exemption.
- You must not be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, as outlined in current CDC guidance.
- If you have come in contact with an individual infected with COVID-19, you should follow all UMMS and Occupational Health policies to determine the requirements for quarantine, testing, and returning to an UMMS facility.