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Senate passes healthcare facility visitors bill

The Alabama Senate unanimously passed legislation Thursday to protect visitation requirements for healthcare facilities.

Introduced by Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman), the bill will ensure residents, clients, or patients of a healthcare facility are afforded the right to visit with anyone during visiting hours. It would also give essential caregivers a minimum of two hours a day for visitation.

The bill was approved 33-0.

Gudger said the new legislation corrects and strengthens legislation that was passed in 2021.

“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,” he said. “The law hasn’t worked as intended, so this year, we’re enhancing the legislation to further protect visitor access and allow our citizens to be in healthcare facilities, with their families, when they need it most, whether it be the birth of a child, sickness, and more so the end of life.”

The bill will also require that any safety-related policies or procedures may not be more stringent than those established for the healthcare facility’s staff, and it prohibits a healthcare facility from requiring visitors to show proof of vaccination or from prohibiting consensual physical contact between a visitor and a resident, client, or patient.

The legislation will require healthcare facilities to provide visitation policies and procedures to the Department of Public Health when applying for licensing, renewal, or change of ownership. It also requires the health department to dedicate a page on its website to explain visitation requirements and provide a mechanism for complaints.

Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.

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