TUALATIN, Ore. (KOIN) — A man who was visiting his wife regularly in the intensive care unit of Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center in Tualatin says he was abruptly escorted off the premises following a stricter patient visitation policy enacted by the hospital amid COVID-19 response, though the woman’s condition was not related to the virus.
“She had a heart attack, her legs swelled up, her sodium levels were at a dangerous level which could cause swelling in the brain. She was experiencing some dementia and seeing black spots,” Jim Stanglewicz told KOIN 6 News; his wife, Sher June, had been hospitalized for several days before the stricter visitation policies were put in place.
Having slept overnight in the hospital’s ICU Tuesday, Stanglewicz said he was given notice of the policy change that was to take effect the next day. But he said he was led to believe he would be able to say goodbye to his wife in person and meet up together with a doctor Wednesday morning, when the policy was to officially take effect.
After he went to use the bathroom Wednesday morning, outside the ICU, Stanglewicz said he was prevented by security from re-entering the room his wife was in to tell her goodbye face-to-face. Security personnel gathered Stanglewicz’ personal effects from the room and escorted him off the property, he said.
“Obviously, I was a little upset about it,” Stanglewicz said. “A lot of these situations, they’re life or death, people could die at any time. And not to be surrounded by your loved ones at the time when they need you the most is obviously very disturbing.”
He added he understands what the hospital is trying to do in terms of slowing the spread of COVID-19, but thinks they should have at least let him say goodbye to his wife before having to leave and not come back.
The family was particularly worried because for a time June would refuse to eat by anyone else’s hand other than her husband’s.
Since the Wednesday incident, Stanglewicz said his wife has been making progress toward recovery and hopes she will be moved out of the ICU into a regular hospital room soon. She’s also regained her mental lucidity, doesn’t slip in and out of consciousness as much, and does eat her meals now.
However, So long as June is still in the hospital, Stanglewicz cannot visit her in person.
The only exceptions for single, over-the-age-of-18 visitors at Legacy Health hospitals are for seeing a child or baby, a patient in labor or with a new baby, and during end-of-life care, none of which match June’s situation.
When she does get discharged, Stanglewicz has their home all set up with a hospital bed donated by a neighbor to the family to help in this trying time as well as a wheelchair that the family purchased.
Until then, Stanglewicz is still dutifully visiting the hospital daily, albeit restricted to the parking lot, to drop off coolers full of food that June requests be brought and delivered by a hospital staff member. They also talk multiple times a day over the telephone.
The hospital commented on their new, stricter visitation policies, a move that many other hospitals in the greater metro area have also enacted.
“Due to patient privacy laws, we can’t comment on any particular patient’s situation. As of Wednesday […], we are not allowing visitors at all Legacy Health medical centers. We recognize that this will be difficult for patients and their loved ones but it is important for protecting our patients and staff from COVID-19. We strongly encourage families to stay in touch with patients through calls, web conferencing, and social media. In addition to taking care of patients, our doctors and nurses are doing everything they can to help patients stay in contact with their loved ones,” Brian Terrett, a spokesperson for Legacy Health, told KOIN 6 News.
Stanglewicz also expressed sympathy to medical workers who are on the front lines amid the COVID-19 crisis, said the hospital has been doing a great job of treating his wife medically and recognized the staff was following the new social distancing policies in response to the virus outbreak.
There wasn’t a COVID-19 test available to either June or Stanglewicz, who delivers medical supplies for his job at UPS. Though the two don’t have any symptoms of the disease, Stanglewicz expressed criticism toward the U.S. government’s overall response to the virus for not having tests more widely accessible.
“It’s a trickle-down effect. And the effect is, I can’t be at the hospital room with my wife that could’ve been her last moments on the planet.”