Hospitals Expanding ICU Visiting Hours and Letting Pets Visit.

(Houston, TX) Most hospitals have 'strict' rules for visiting patients in the ICU. But are those policies really helping the patients or just frustrating their families?
Reporter Dave Fehling found big changes are coming to the Intensive Care.

Javier Deloza with Houston Northwest Medical Center said, “"This is an environment where you have your sickest patient population."

This is the I-C-U.
It's where hospitals provide Intensive Care for patients like Linn Eignus.
He's just out of surgery for a double by-pass. An ordeal, for sure, but not just for him.

His daughter said, "It's miserable, you're stressed and anxious."

Even now, we found big differences in when you can visit a loved one in Intensive Care.

Deloza said, "We do have set hours."

For example, the Houston Northwest Medical Center limits visitation in the surgical I-C-U to five hours during the day, just a single hour in the evening.

Deloza said, "The patient's starting to get tired and we want to maximize their rest, maximize their ability to heal."

But that very notion, that too much visitation can hurt an ICU patient, is now being challenged. Some hospitals in Houston are opening up ICUs as never before. And a new Federal regulation is prompting even more open-ness in Intensive Care.

Look what they've been doing for years now at Methodist Hospital. It not only allows "families" to visit 24-7, but their dogs too.

Watch what we saw happen as "Max" comes to see Clara Mason for the first time since she was admitted three weeks earlier.

Deloza said, "This is basically like a brand new day, she is really glowing."

Clara said, "And I was just elated. This is the best thing. This is the best medicine I've had since I was in the hospital."

But isn't all this excitement, all these visitors, bad for someone like Clara with a heart condition and bronchitis?

In most cases, no, according to studies that even found visits not only didn't stress-out the patient but actually reduced the stress felt by family members.

Newer hospitals are even designing their ICU's differently, including couches that fold out for visitors to sleep on like in this room at Memorial Hermann.

And some do.

It's getting more common in Houston where a re-thinking of the I-C-U can mean even visitors like Max are allowed-in to make the most fragile of patients feel better.

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