By David Ferguson
Dear Representative Mayberry,
Thank you for sponsoring the No Patient Left Alone Act (Act 311, HB1061). It enabled me to help take care of my father at a time when he was too sick and weak to speak clearly or to do anything for himself.
I had a much different experience last year with my mother. She was in the memory unit of a nursing home. I visited her most days and tried to be of help. Then Covid hit and months passed. It wasn’t until her Alzheimer’s had progressed to where she was near death that we were allowed to be with her.
My father had fallen at home and developed pneumonia. After a short stay in the hospital, he was transferred to a long-term care facility for a few days before being sent back to the hospital where he died. (This shouldn’t be necessary to say but I know there are still people who want to see Covid at every corner…No, my father did NOT have Covid. He had had his vaccinations and was tested both in the hospital and the long term care facility.)
While he was in long term care, the facility went on lockdown for two rounds of testing after one employee tested positive for Covid. The lockdown was heart breaking because my father was too sick to do anything for himself… too sick to make himself understood … too sick to even press a call button for help.
Brenda Vassaur Taylor of Conduit reminded me of your No Patient Left Alone law. In reading your legislation, it was obvious my father’s situation qualified for several reasons for “compassion care” visits despite the lockdown.
There will be a learning curve as facilities adjust to the new law and as people learn about their rights. Initially, the staff on duty told me I couldn’t come because I wasn’t on the list. Then I was told the visits were allowed only during a short time during the day. I replied, “That is not in the law. I’m bringing a copy for you to see and I am on my way.” The poor staff frantically called the administrator who was out of town. The administrator called me and quickly understood my father’s situation and she made sure her staff was accommodating. I very much appreciate her understanding and assistance.
Each time I entered the facility I had to fill out a health survey, have my temperature taken, and don protective gear (mask, face shield, gown, booties, and even a hair net for my bald head). The extra steps didn’t bother me at all because my father needed our help.
I have a lot of respect for the administrators and staff of hospitals and nursing homes. Their jobs are difficult and more so at this time when many facilities are experiencing staff shortages after a year of Covid. From the way your law is crafted, I think it also recognizes the difficulty of their job in that it sets criteria for comfort care visits.
As I see it the law not only helps patients and their families, it also gives cover to the facility to allow visits that the state had previously prohibited.
You may not know I had the privilege of working for the Arkansas General Assembly for nearly thirty-two years. During that time, I must have written thousands of laws for legislators, but none of those laws had the direct and positive impact on my family that your legislation had.
My father needed his family’s help during his final few days on this earth. Because of your Act 311 we were able to do that even during a facility lockdown.
Thank you for sticking to your guns and passing Act 311. Thank you to the cosponsors of the bill and the 91 Representatives and 33 Senators who voted for the bill.
Also, thank you to Brenda for reminding me about your law and to Conduit for Action and Conduit News for publishing this letter. Maybe it will help someone.
To the reader, you may be wondering if your loved one would qualify for “compassion care” visits in the event their facility experiences another Covid lockdown. Here is a link to Act 311 of 2021.