Health

Parents Say They Can’t Visit Baby In NICU Who Has COVID-19

Patch News
Written by Publishing Team

CARY, IL — A Cary family believes at least two Chicago-area hospitals need to rethink their fostering policies after being separated from their newborn son who tested positive for COVID-19.

Jay Olesen was born on December 27 at Prentice Women’s Hospital of Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. Parents Jesse Olesen, 29, and Jessica Olesen, 28, knew there would be complications associated with the birth.

“They wanted him out as soon as possible,” Jesse Olesen said. “He was born at 38 weeks. He went straight to NICU, that was the plan.”

Jessica Olesen began treating him while he was being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit at Chicago Hospital.

On Jan. 6, Jay was due to be transferred to Lurie Children’s Hospital for neurosurgery to fix a buildup of fluid in his head, Jesse Olesen said. But according to hospital policy, Jay had to take a COVID-19 test before being transferred. This test came back positive.

Hospital staff then informed the Olesens that Jay should stay in Prentice and that they should leave and get tested for COVID-19. At the time, they told the couple that if they tested negative they could return in 14 days. If the tests were positive, it would be 10 days.

“They basically just kicked me and my wife out,” Jesse Olesen told Patch on Wednesday.

The couple tried to argue that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had changed their quarantine guidelines, shortening the length of isolation for people who test positive for COVID-19 from 10 days to five.

“They kept coming back saying, ‘We have our own hospital policies.’ No matter what we said, they objected,” Jesse Olesen said.

On Sunday, hospital staff called back and let them know that Jay would need to be transferred to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. for immediate evaluation and surgery after detection of bowel obstruction.

The Olesens showed up at the hospital and were allowed to see their son. Jessica, who tested positive for COVID over the weekend but had no symptoms, stayed the night. On Monday, hospital staff told Jessica she had to leave. They said the couple could return a week later, on January 17.

The protocol in place, which did not allow the Olesens to see their son, is wrong, Jesse said. At the very least, Jessica should be allowed to be with him for his first weeks of life, he said.

“There is no sufficient excuse to separate a mother from her newborn baby, especially when breastfeeding,” he said.

Effective Jan. 1, Northwestern Medicine’s policy for visitors to all of its facilities, including Prentice Women’s Hospital, allows up to two visitors in the neonatal intensive care unit. The policies listed online did not specify guidelines for infants or caregivers who tested positive for COVID-19. Northwestern Medicine also noted that all policies are subject to change at any time.

Patch contacted Northwestern Medicine on Thursday for more details, but has yet to hear back.

Kary McIlwain, senior vice president and chief public information officer at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, told Patch via email that if the mother is asymptomatic and willing to wear a mask, she can stay with her baby.

“If she has symptoms, we should ask her to leave like we would anyone, including doctors and nurses,” McIlwain said.

Jesse Olesen said he and his wife, as well as their baby, were asymptomatic and had no symptoms of COVID-19.

Asked about the Olesens’ situation, Julianne Bardele, associate director of public affairs and communications at Lurie Children’s Hospital, said hospital staff were not authorized to comment on specific patients.

“We can share general policy but are unable to comment on a specific situation due to patient confidentiality,” Bardele said.

“However, our health care teams work with each family to provide the safest visits possible. Above all, we never want to hold a family back from their baby, and we work with each family to meet their needs,” Bardele said. .

Patch also contacted the Illinois Department of Public Health to see what guidelines are in place regarding newborns who test positive for COVID-19 but had not received a response as of Friday morning.

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