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Governor Signs Bill to Guarantee Visitation Rights for Patients and their Families

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Photo courtesy aadmd.org & positiveexposure.org
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Tallahassee-April 6, 2022: Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 988, the No Patient Left Alone Act, on Wednesday. The new law guarantees that Florida families have the right to visit their loved ones who are receiving care in hospitals, hospices, and long-term care facilities. No health care facility in Florida may require a vaccine as a condition of visitation and every health care facility must allow their residents and patients to be hugged by their loved ones.

The measure was introduced after some facilities across the country denied admission to persons seeking to visit a Covid positive patient, or visitors who were themselves Covid positive.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has reinstated federal visitation protections for long term care facilities in late 2020, but CMS continues to allow hospitals to bar patient visits because of Covid. The new law signed by the Governor guarantees that right.

“We recognize that family and human connection is one of the most important aspects of physical, mental, and emotional well-being," said the Governor, "we are ensuring Floridians are never again denied the right to see their relatives and friends while in hospitals or nursing homes.”

“ I have talked with and worked with so many family members over the past two years who experienced many difficulties in seeing and supporting their loved ones during this time. This bill will make a huge difference for them.” said Senator Gayle Harrell, who represents St. Lucie and Martin Counties. She said the new law "makes sure our patients are able to have the comfort of their loved ones when they are isolated in our nursing homes or health care facilities during a health emergency such as the pandemic."

SB 988 states health care facilities must allow in-person visitation in all of the following circumstances, unless the resident, client, or patient objects:

• End-of-life situations.

• A resident, client, or patient who was living with family before being admitted to the provider’s care is struggling with the change in environment and lack of in-person family support.

• A resident, client, or patient is making one or more major medical decisions.

• A resident, client, or patient is experiencing emotional distress or grieving the loss of a friend or family member who recently died.

• A resident, client, or patient needs cueing or encouragement to eat or drink which was previously provided by a family member or caregiver.

• A resident, client, or patient who used to talk and interact with others is seldom speaking.

• For hospitals, childbirth, including labor and delivery.

• Pediatric patients.

Additionally, the bill allows a resident, client, or patient the option to designate a visitor who is a family member, friend, guardian, or other individual as an essential caregiver. The provider must allow in-person visitation by the essential caregiver for at least 2 hours daily in addition to any other visitation authorized by the provider.

By May 6, all Florida hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and intermediate care facilities for the developmentally disabled must adopt and publicly post their visitation policy in an easily accessible format on the home page of their website. These policies should outline hours for visitation and any health or safety procedures that visitors are subject to. Providers are authorized to request a visitor to agree to the policy and procedures in writing.

If you or your loved one have been met with resistance from a hospital, hospice, or long-term care facility when attempting to visit with loved ones, you may file a complaint with the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) for further review and action online at www.ahca.myflorida.com/visitation.