Gabriel Anthony Hall dutifully came to his pregnant wife’s doctor appointments at Emory University Hospital Midtown, but the Atlanta attorney said an employee told him he could not do so when they arrived there two weeks ago.
They say they were told only his wife could see the obstetrician. The hospital’s website, though, says obstetric patients can have one visitor throughout their stay, a recent rule created to protect patients and staff from the novel coronavirus pandemic. The couple believed it allowed Hall to come with her.
Hall, and his wife, Quannesha Trimble, filed a lawsuit against the hospital Tuesday, saying they felt humiliated when hospital police ordered him to leave.
“I felt demeaned,” Hall, 29, a personal injury attorney, said in a telephone interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I felt degraded.”
Emory declined comment, saying it doesn’t discuss pending litigation.
The dispute reflects discussions that have taken place in recent weeks in hospitals throughout the nation as medical facilities attempt to implement safety measures to prevent the spread of a disease that has no cure. For example, a Shreveport, La., wife has been unable to visit her husband, recovering from a stroke, because the hospital has a limited visitor policy, according to a local news report.
Hall’s Facebook friends debated the matter after he wrote about it that day, March 26. Some said they understood the intentions of hospitals to find ways to protect everyone while most sympathized with the couple. Hall believes at least one person should be allowed to accompany a pregnant woman on hospital visits and the delivery room.
Some New York hospitals briefly banned anyone except the mother from the delivery room, even if they do not show symptoms of the disease, according to news reports. The hospitals changed the policy, but have restricted multiple visitors.
Emory’s policy, according to its website, allows one visitor in its neonatal unit, but that person must be the same visitor throughout the patient’s stay. Patients admitted for end of life treatment are allowed two visitors. The website says the policy was last updated March 30.
Metro Atlanta’s largest health care providers have similar policies posted on their websites.
Wellstar Health System allows one visitor for women in labor or for post-partum support, unless the pregnant woman is under 18. Piedmont Healthcare allows visitors for patients who are in labor, in end of life care or legal guardians of children receiving care. Grady Health System allows one visitor throughout the labor, delivery, and post-partum period.
Morehouse Healthcare has asked the partners of pregnant women not to come along for visits. Additionally, the facility is primarily asking one parent to come along for pediatric care. It is encouraging partners and parents to participate in video chats. Morehouse said they’ve had no objections to their policy, which have been modified on a weekly basis.
“By making these hard stops, we’re able to decrease the risk of exposure to everyone,” said Dr. Nicola Chin, Morehouse Healthcare’s associate medical director.
Hall and Trimble, who married in November, said they took precautions before the March 26 visit. It is their first child. Hall said he wore a mask to the hospital.
Trimble, 35, who is five months pregnant, said she cried in the waiting area as the dispute escalated. Trimble, a chiropractor, said it’s helpful for her husband accompanying her on appointments. He takes notes and asks questions she sometimes forgets to ask.
“If you don’t have a support system, things can fall apart,” she said.
Hall said he contacted hospital officials to resolve the dispute, but did not reach an amicable resolution.
“Either they didn’t follow the policy or they don’t know the policy,” he said.
Hall said the couple sued to help other couples after getting responses on Facebook from friends who said they encountered similar situations.
Trimble said she never wanted to go back to Emory and switched to WellStar Atlanta Medical Center. WellStar, the couple said, did not have the equipment to do the ultrasound during Trimble’s appointment last week, so she returned to Emory.
Trimble had an appointment Tuesday and went, this time, by herself.
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