Hospitalization and Visitation During The COVID-19 Pandemic

April 3rd, 2020 by

Everyone is talking about the overload at the hospitals and many have heard that visitors are not allowed at the bedside with patients who have been diagnosed or are suspected of having COVID-19.  But what happens when that patient is a minor?  We have all read that children may be less affected by this virus but does not mean that they are exempt.  It does not mean that they may require medical treatment or hospitalization, so the question remains what happens if a child requires hospitalization?  

Parents across the country are asking this very question about whether they would be allowed at the child’s bedside in the event that their child was hospitalized.  The short answer is, we do not know yet.  As of right now, most states are putting strict guidelines in place, however, for decision-making reasons, are not only permitted but requiring one parent to be bedside with the child.  If the child is under the age of 18, they are not permitted to make their own medical decisions, therefore, many hospitals are requiring one parent to be present during the stay.  This parent is under strict rules, however.   It is not the ‘one parent at a time’ rule but rather, designate one parent, one parent who is ‘moving into’ that hospital room.  Once the parent has arrived, that parent is there for the duration of the stay and is not permitted to leave the hospital and the other parent/family members are not permitted to visit.  What parent has this planned out? 

This becomes even more complicated if the parents are no longer together.  If the parents are divorced or never married, this decision becomes even more difficult.  If one parent has been designated the parent who makes all medical decisions, then the decision is a little bit easier.  The purpose of having a parent at the hospital for the staff is to make those decisions, therefore the parent who is charged with those decisions should be at the hospital but if the parents are making joint decisions the issue is not clear.   Please consult with your Parenting Agreement if you are not sure.  Although your Parenting Agreement might provide some guidance, there is not likely to be specifics regarding what to do during a Pandemic.  

There are no clear answers, and with the courts in a ‘slow down’ mode, the Court assisting is likely not going to be an option.  Also, this decision is going to have to be made quickly so looking for outside help is not possible.  Without sounding like a doomsday prepper, the decision regarding the plan of action should be made now, not when you are faced with a tough situation. Some things to consider when developing your plan: 

  1. Who is going to care for other children during hospitalization? 
  2. Who is ‘better health’ to reduce the risk of their exposure? 
  3. Is either parent an ‘essential employee’ who still needs to go to work? 
  4. How can the parent at the hospital communicate with the other parent? 
  5. Are any forms necessary to implement the plan (for example Powers of Attorney)? 
  6. What can the parent outside the hospital to do support the parent and child at the hospital? 

This process is going to take patience and co-parenting.  Communication between the parents is key and keeping an open mind to the other parent’s thoughts and concerns.  All parents handle situations differently, this is true in married couples, divorced couples, or couples who were never married.  Each parent needs to recognize the value of the other parent and not just to the child but value that parent’s input as well.  It is a scary situation and being prepared, is the best coat of armor we can have.  Stay safe and healthy and if there is anything we can do to support you, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Written by Amy Schellekens  

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