JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A new law in Missouri will allow families to visit their loved ones in health care facilities during a state of emergency, like COVID-19. The No Patient Left Alone Act was a top priority for Republicans. The legislation was in response to the pandemic when many weren’t allowed to visit family members in nursing homes or hospitals. This new law establishes patient visitation rights.
The governor signed off Thursday on a bill giving visitors access to their loved ones. Under the new law hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice facilities must allow at least two visitors to see a patient during visiting hours.
During a state of emergency, a patient may designate two essential caregivers who can visit for at least four hours a day.
The soon-to-be speaker of the house, Representative Dean Plocher says like many Missourians, this new law is personal after his father-in-law died in the hospital during the pandemic.
“The transmissions of COVID were not impacted by denying the loved one to be next to their individual while they were in the hospital,” said Plocher. “In his last moments, my wife, my sister-in-law, they were denied visitation and he kept calling for them, he was crying for them to be able to be by his side.”
Health care facilities can ask the state health department to suspend in-person visits for up to a week.
“On the floor people thought somebody like myself might have something opposing to health care and that’s not true, not true at all. None of us up here is this a dig at health care,” said Representative John Black.
Facilities are still allowed to impose restrictions on visitors if they are showing symptoms of infection, or if emergency care is being administered to the patient.
The Missouri Hospital Association says this new law is a “good balance” for hospitals.