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Gut wrenching. That’s what it is.

Every day people go to the hospital and before they go in the door, they are stripped of support from a family member or friend. Family and friends are barred from coming to assist the patient because of COVID-19 rules.

It is bad enough when the patient feels so bad, they are not quite sure what the doctors are telling them. Even worse yet is when the patient is a child or an elderly relative with some dementia. They may not understand why they have been abandoned and even if they do understand it does not lessen their heartbreak and fear.

Maybe you were the one left alone in the hospital. Maybe it was your family member or friend. In any event, you are likely to know someone in your community or social media circle who has suffered because of this or is going through this now.

And then there are our loved ones in a nursing home who are very lonely. Some families stood in the snow outside a nursing home window just to wave at their parent or grandparent through a window to show them they are not abandoned. Although you can see through it, a window is still a major barrier.

What about end-of-life situations? Yes, there are people who are heartbroken because their family member died alone due to COVID-19 rules.

Before COVID-19, hospitals recognized the value of allowing family members to help patients. Many hospital rooms are furnished with recliners or couches where family spent sleepless nights to be there to help their loved one. Now those recliners and couches are empty and patients are alone except when overworked staff comes through.

What happened to compassion? Where are reasonable accommodations? Why hasn’t six-feet-apart and masks allowed families to care for and protect patients. Or even the addition of hospital gowns and COVID-19 tests.

This has been going on for too long. Why hasn’t Governor Asa Hutchinson worked to relax the rules?

But there are people who are trying to help!  State Representative Julie Mayberry (R-Hensley) filed HB1061 which is legislation titled “No Patient Left Alone.” The legislation creates visitation rights for family and allows the patient to have clergy to come and pray with him or her. Rep. Mayberry has been joined by twenty other legislators as cosponsors of the bill.

The legislation includes some necessary restrictions, such as barring a family member upon the request of the patient or the request of law enforcement. You certainly do not want a person there who’s abuse caused the need of hospitalization. Another restriction would bar someone with COVID-19 or some other infectious disease from visiting.

The legislation has already undergone two large amendments.

One of the changes added says a person “may” file a complaint with the facility’s licensing board for “mediation.”[i] This doesn’t seem very practical but it does say “may.” If heath care providers wanted this provision as exclusive remedy that would be a huge problem, but as we noted it says a person MAY file the complaint with the board and does not say legal remedies or other remedies are precluded.

Some supporters are worried Governor Hutchinson’s Health Department may push for amendments to weaken the bill or will oppose the bill. Will lobbyists for hospitals and nursing homes try to defeat the bill just because it might create a little more work for the facilities?

HB1061 is scheduled to be considered by the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare And Labor.  It is the first item on the agenda for the committee’s meeting at 9:30 AM on Tuesday, February 23.

Here is a link to the list of the House committee members. This is a link to the status and text of HB1061.

HB1061 is a big step forward in the compassionate care of patients.

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[i](i)(1) An individual may file a complaint against a hospital, office of healthcare professional, long-term care facility, or hospice facility for failing to comply with this section with the appropriate licensing board, including the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services.
(2) The appropriate licensing board shall investigate the complaint and mediate the complaint between the individual and the hospital, office of healthcare professional, long-term care facility, or hospice facility.

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