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Western New York hospitals alter visitor rules during flu season

Oishei Children's Hospital in Buffalo and United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia have placed restrictions on visitors to keep patients protected.

In the midst a severe respiratory virus and influenza season, Oishei Children's Hospital is temporarily enforcing an enhanced visitation policy

Under the new policy, people who are sick and children younger than 5 years old are asked not to visit. 

Children and teenagers ages 6 to 14 can visit under special circumstances with an adult.

Parents and grandparents who are sick can still visit, but they have to wear a mask.

This is all to avoid the spread of infection. 

Last week United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia was one of the first to place restrictions on visitors.

Only two visitors per patient will be allowed at a time, and they must be 14 years or older. However, healthy siblings of any age are still allowed to visit newborns.

The hospital also wants visitors to stay home if they're experiencing a sore throat, runny nose or any other flu-like symptoms.

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center isn't making any changes to its visitation policy, but its year-round policy specifically addresses the issue already. 

It says in part, "If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms or suffering from a head cold, please reconsider your visit. If you need to visit, we ask you to wear a surgical mask while on the patient care unit."

"We want to protect our patients from respiratory viruses, influenza being the most significant one. So we really want to have our policies throughout the year," said Dr. Brahm Segal, the Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Roswell. 

Dr. Segal told 2 on Your Side, in terms of trying to limit the risk of spreading infection Roswell encourages people who need to come to the facility who are showing signs of a respiratory infection to let the staff know ahead of time. 

A spokesperson with Catholic Health told us they are not restricting visitation yet at this point, but they will continue monitoring the situation and make changes if necessary.

The VA Hospital in Buffalo also has not made any changes due to the flu this season.

A spokesperson with the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center sent us this statement. 

"The number of flu cases diagnosed at NFMMC so far this year is similar to what we had last year at this time. However, the severity of cases this year seems to be higher, with more patients requiring hospitalization for the flu. There have not been any influenza-associated deaths in our facility this season.

"We continue to take all necessary measures to diagnose and treat patients with the flu promptly and efficiently, as well as to prevent the spread of the flu to other patients."

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein is urging anyone who hasn't done so yet, to get the flu shot. 

"Some years the flu effectiveness of the vaccine is very high. Some years it's not so high. We all remember those years. Whatever that number is, it's always greater than zero," she said. 

Burstein added, "As a community hopefully we can work together to stay as much in control of this flu outbreak as possible this year." 

The message from hospitals to visitors in general is that if you're sick, it's best to stay home.

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