North Carolina Senate bill would require hospitals, nursing homes to allow visitors during emergencies

State Senator Michael Lee is a sponsor of Senate Bill 191, better known as the ‘No Patient Left Alone Act
Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 1:48 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Visiting loved ones in places like hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices has proved to be a challenge for many since the pandemic started because facilities implemented strict no-visitor policies.

But some state lawmakers are hoping to make it so that those stuck in these facilities have the right to have visitors.

State Senator Michael Lee is a sponsor of Senate Bill 191, better known as the ‘No Patient Left Alone Act.’ He says the number of folks who were left alone for months without being allowed visitors was something that resonated with him and that’s why he decided to sponsor this bill.

“During the pandemic, we heard a lot of stories about folks in nursing homes, hospitals in other areas, where family members were not allowed to visit even if they tested negative for COVID and there was no significant healthcare risk that they were aware of that still were prevented from visiting the patient even in the end-of-life situation,” Lee said.

It was not just private facilities that implemented these visitation restrictions, Governor Roy Cooper and the Department of Health and Human Services issued restrictions for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Those restrictions were walked back in March of 2021.

Obviously, there must be some sort of protection in place to keep other residents from being exposed to the virus, but Lee said if folks are testing negative then it should be a patient’s right to have visitors.

“There are several of us that are co-sponsors because we felt strongly that — provided that the public health risks are minimized — that folks should be allowed to visit family members and loved ones,” he said.

The bill still has some ways to go before it could be enacted as a law, but as the delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spike across the state and hospitals continue to limit visitation rights for patients, it will be worth watching as we head into fall.

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