“I’m here for a friend of mine who said goodbye to his mother through a hospital window while he and his family stood on a helipad outside,” he said. “You’ve got to give voice to those that may not give us campaign contributions, that may not be in power but they’re Georgians.”
Opponents have said that they are concerned that allowing additional people into health care facilities no matter the circumstances could further exacerbate the problem during a pandemic.
State Rep. Debra Bazemore, D-Riverdale, called the legislation a “feel-good, tug-at-your-heartstrings bill” that wasn’t good public policy.
“I cannot imagine one of my loved ones in a hospital nursing home or long-term care facility during a pandemic and not being able to visit them,” Bazemore said. “However, I do trust the medical professionals when they warn that in order to keep our loved ones safe, healthy and alive, we will have to endure some precautions.”
HB 290 would require health care facilities where a patient is staying for more than 12 hours to allow a “legal representative” — defined as someone at least 21 years old and designated as someone who can act on behalf of the patient — to be at the patient’s bedside at least one hour per day. The legal representative would be allowed at hospitals and long-term care facilities.
Long-term care facilities would be required to allow two “essential caregivers” — defined as someone who is at least 18 years old and assists with the patient’s needs — access to the patient for at least two hours per day. Health care facilities would have to establish separate policies for legal representatives, essential caregivers and visitors.
In both cases, the representative could be family members.
The bill would prevent anyone from suing a health care facility if he or she got sick or was harmed because the hospital or nursing home allowed patients to receive visitors. It would also allow a patient to sue a health care facility that banned guests.
If approved, HB 290 will take effect July 1. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.