'Visitor' No More! Contra Costa Hospital Earns National Acclaim for Dropping 'Family Visiting Hours'

Contra Costa Regional Medical Center (CCRMC) in Martinez is one of only 12 hospitals being recognized nationwide for supporting families as partners in care by eliminating restrictive visiting hours.
CCRMC is hailed as an exemplar hospital by the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care (IPFCC) which launched its Better Together campaign last week.

IPFCC’s campaign calls on all hospitals to welcome families 24 hours a day and to transform their approach to care so that patients’ families and loved ones are included in care and decision-making, based on patient preferences. 

CCRMC Chief Executive Officer Anna Roth said it was an honor to be selected, and the county hospital implemented a “welcoming” policy nine months ago, eliminating restrictive visiting policies and changing the concept of families as “visitors.”   

“There is a difference between a 24/7 visitation policy and a welcoming policy. It’s not enough to  simply be open 24/7- we as hospitals need to be truly welcoming places where families and loved ones are recognized and included as essential to patient care,” Roth said. 

Studies and hospitals’ experience show that having family and loved ones present reduces patient complications and stress and improves the patient's experience of care in the hospital, said Beverley Johnson, IPFCC President and CEO. The Joint Commission, the accrediting body for health systems, recommends that hospitals accommodate access to a patient’s support person to encourage safer care.  

“These 12 exemplar hospitals understand how important it is to partner with patients’ families instead of treating them as outsiders who are interfering in their loved one’s care. Hospitals that have changed their policies are proving that giving patients the access they want to their loved ones actually helps them get better,” Johnson said.  

Nevertheless, Johnson said, many hospitals across the country still limit when family members can be with patients, even when they are critically ill or dying. A 2013 Critical Care study found that 76 percent of hospitals surveyed had restrictive visiting policies, and almost 90 percent of hospital ICUs had restrictions, according to Johnson.   

“All too often, families and loved ones are prevented from being with patients, leaving them alone and isolated, often when they need support the most,” said IPFCC’s Johnson. “These policies are based on outdated beliefs that frequent contact with loved ones interferes with care, exhausts the patient, or spreads infection; research and hospitals’ experience show that these just aren’t true.” 

Roth said one experience that contributed to CCRMC’s decision to change was when a young boy wasn’t allowed to be with his grandfather, who had raised him, in the ICU because it was after visiting hours. The grandfather passed away and the two lost the chance to say goodbye. 

 “That incident really hit home for me and our entire staff, and we knew we could do better,” Roth said. “Our old policies treated family members like visitors, until we realized that we are the visitors in people’s lives, not the other way around.” 

Eliminating visiting restrictions doesn’t mean there aren’t any rules, and it was important to sit down with staff and listen to their concerns about changing visiting policies, Roth said. CCRMC brought together everyone who was involved — from doctors, nurses, security personnel, receptionists and other staff to patients and their families and loved ones —to lead the effort. 

“Our policy welcomes families 24/7, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t boundaries,” Roth said. “We always consider safety and our patients’ preferences in every situation. But now, having a family member or loved one by the bedside is the norm in our hospital.”         

Contra Costa Regional Medical Center and its 10 health centers are part of a comprehensive county health system, Contra Costa Health Services. For more information on CCRMC and its welcoming policy, visit: http://cchealth.org/medicalcenter/welcome-policy.php.
For more information about IPFCC and the Better Together campaign, visithttp://www.ipfcc.org
morning glory June 29, 2014 at 08:59 PM
When my husband worked for County I delivered a child there. I had to share a room with a woman who had about 12 "family" members visiting the whole time. They were loud and rude and left the tv blaring constantly. After 20 hours of labor I felt it was cruel and unusual punishment that I was placed in an environment like that. I had the bed that was farthest from the bathroom and had to walk in front of all of them every time I needed to use the restroom. Anyone who has delivered a baby will understand how uncomfortable this was.I was afraid to leave my infant in the room while I used the b-room. I thank God that I don't go to that hospital anymore. So... the hospital's "welcoming" policy may sound great but in certain situations it is hell.
Doug Sibley July 07, 2014 at 04:03 AM
How long ago was it when you delivered at CCRMC? Do you think policies there may have changed? I believe so.
Nancy Perry White June 30, 2014 at 01:48 PM
They may have a 24/7 policy but turn the elevators off at 8:30 and their literature says no one under 12 can visit.


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