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Woman pleas hospitals to change COVID-19 policies

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“Who is wearing a mask who is not wearing a mask none of that matters, the fact is people are dying alone in hospitals every day alone, COVID or not, they are dying”

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark — One woman is speaking out after her mother fought for her life alone at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville.

Cassie Thompson is asking for a reconsideration of strict hospital visitations policies. 

She says her mother doesn’t have much time left to live and the only way she could have been with her is if it was during her last breath.

“Too many to describe… but I have joy, I have joy through this,” Thompson said.

Those are the emotions she’s felt after her mom received a terminal diagnosis. Thompson dropped her mother off at the hospital on July 4 not knowing if she would ever see her again.

“Asking me all these questions and it was all so fast and then she was gone and I didn’t get to say goodbye,” Thompson said.

At that moment, her mother no longer had a hand to hold or a familiar face to comfort her.

“In that moment I did not know if I would ever see her again and I begged them ‘please let me just go talk to her, let me say goodbye, let me hug her’,” Thompson said.

At 57 years old, her mother is now in and out of the hospital fighting for her life alone. Her family says their goodbyes at the door each time, not knowing if it is the last.

Thompson says the entire hospital is filled with patients going through the same thing.

“It’s unfair, t’s unfair that kids are going back to school you know, hundreds can gather in Walmart or any other retailer and that’s fine but one person one family member can not into the hospital,” she said.

It’s not just Washington Regional, hospitals across the state have implemented simial COVID-19 restrictions. It continues to take a toll on patient’s and family member’s mental health.

Thompson says she understands being cautious during the pandemic, but she hopes as the state opens up, so will hospitals. She hopes this happens soon because she doesn’t know how much time her mom has left.

“Like who is wearing a mask, who is not wearing a mask, none of that matters, the fact is people are dying alone in hospitals every day alone, COVID or not, they are dying,” Thompson said. “People need to see the bigger picture of what is going on in this world and what really matters and that is family.”

Washington Regional says its policies are subject to change as developments concerning the coronavirus necessitate. Officials say the policy is driven by the prevalence of the virus in the community, not based on the opening of other businesses and services. 

Birch Wright, COO and Administrator at Washington Regional answered the following questions for 5NEWS:

Are there any plans to change the visitor policy now that places are starting to open back up and allow more people in? 
Washington Regional understands the difficulties caused by limitation of visitors in our hospital. We continue to review our visitor policy on a regular basis and work with other hospitals in NWA on a collaborative approach. Hospitalized patients are amongst the most vulnerable population and stringent safety guidelines were put in place to protect staff, patients and every member of the community that we serve. We ask for our community’s understanding and courtesy as we strive to create a safe environment for all person’s under our care.”

If not…why? 

“The visitor polices are subject to change as developments concerning the Coronavirus necessitate. In order to safeguard the wellness of our staff, patients and the community, Washington Regional reviews COVID-19 positivity rates, number of infections and active cases daily to make evidence based and data driven decisions. Our policy will be driven by the prevalence of the virus in our community not based upon opening of other places of business or services.”

Would it have to be approved by the Arkansas Department of Health? Washington Regional implements the AR Department of Health directives and follows all necessary guidelines, but our visitation policies are not subject to specific ADH approval.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that Thompson’s mother was still in the hospital. That is not the case, and her mother has been released. 

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