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Ivey signs patient visitation rights into law

Those who had a loved one in the hospital in recent years know how heartbreaking it can be to not be guaranteed access by their side – especially in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

A law went into effect Tuesday that will allow more visitation freedom in Alabama healthcare facilities. Patients will be able to designate a specific visitor as an essential caregiver, which would allow them to visit for a minimum of two hours every day.

“The ability to visit a cherished loved one, whether in a hospital or nursing home, should be a fundamental right,” said Gov. Kay Ivey. “However, all over the country during the pandemic, many family members, caregivers and even clergy were denied access to visit and provide emotional support to patients in healthcare facilities.”

Essential caregiver status can extend to a family member, friend, guardian, pastor, or other person designated a specific day to visit. The law also prohibits a facility from requiring proof of vaccination or stopping physical contact between a visitor and a patient.

During an emotional legislative process between the House and Senate, Sen. Garland Gudger (R-Cullman) brought the bill and saw it through to completion.

“In 2021, we passed a bill to strengthen patient-visitor access, but over the last two years, I’ve continued to receive countless phone calls from Alabamians that weren’t able to be by their loved one’s side during their final days,” Gudger said from the Senate floor.

After Ivey signed the bill Tuesday, Gudger said it was a “great day for Alabama.

The law also offers liability protection for healthcare facilities and employees in carrying out these new procedures.

“I was pleased to sign this legislation to signal that in Alabama, we support our patients having this fundamental right,” Ivey said.

Grayson Everett is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270 for coverage of the 2023 legislative session. 

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