Health Systems and Policy Research

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Extending Hospital Visiting Hours

Yves Muscat Baron

Background: The current visiting hours at the main General Hospital in the Maltese Islands, Mater Dei Hospital are 2¾ hours. In most European and North American hospitals visiting hours are significantly higher, ranging from 5 hours to unlimited visiting times. Methods: Extended visiting hours encourage greater participation of the family members and friends in the care of patients. Scientific evidence indicates that unlimited visitation policies lead to improve patient morale, safety and outcomes (lower heart rates and lower blood pressure). Findings: Family members may assist in mobilization and nutrition of patients. While in hospital the informal careers may acquire obtain “in-house” training as how to continue care at home. This assistance may result in reduction in length of stay and attenuate the risk of long-term institutional care both factors diminishing the pressure on the beset hospital bed-state. Conclusion: Extended hospital visiting hours allow greater freedom of family and friends to visit inpatients elevating morale, encouraging in greater family/friend engagement in the patients’ care ultimately improving patient outcome.