Gov. DeSantis signs bill outlining new visitation rules at hospitals, long-term care facilities

Reporter: Lauren Leslie Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:
(Credit: WINK News)

Governor Ron DeSantis has signed Senate Bill 988, which establishes the No Patient Left Alone Act and makes it easier for loved ones to visit family in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

“You have the right to have your family members with you,” said DeSantis.

That wasn’t the case throughout the pandemic.

“If you take people and they have that connection, and they have loved ones with them, they are more likely to recover,” said DeSantis.

The governor is speaking from experience. His wife, first lady Casey DeSantis, was declared free of breast cancer in March. The governor is now working to ensure Floridians won’t have to experience being alone and isolated when they need love and support.

“The most painful part of the journey was being alone,” said Charlenne Miranda

Miranda was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2020, just months into the coronavirus pandemic. “I found my own lump and had a hard time getting a mammogram just because elective procedures were down, thankfully I was able to get in,” said Miranda.

She was alone in a fight for her life. “My fear was that I was going to be alone that my husband wouldn’t be allowed in and that’s exactly what happened,” said Miranda.

Patients of hospitals, hospices and long-term care facilities now have the right to be surrounded by loved ones. Physical contact, like hugging, is protected under the new law.

“They would actually police this where you can go in and you said you may be able to go but you can’t give your wife a hug or you can’t give your kid a hug, I mean give me a break,” said DeSantis.

The bill requires facilities to create a new visitation policy within 30 days of the bill being signed that:

  • Address specified topics including infection control and education protocols and policies for visitors, permissible lengths of visits, and numbers of visitors;
  • May not be more stringent than what the provider requires for staff;
  • May not require proof of vaccine or immunization;
  • Must allow consensual physical contact between the resident, client, or patient and the visitor; and
  • Must allow in-person visitation under specified circumstances including:
    •  End-of-life situations.
    • A resident, client, or patient who was living with his or her family before being admitted to the provider’s care is struggling with the change in environment and lack of in-person family support.
    • The 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.

Patients will also be allowed to designate an essential caregiver who can visit for at least two hours longer than the facility’s visitation policy.

The bill calls for a website to provide information about the new visitation rules and allow people to make complaints. That website has not been launched. You can also call 888-775-6005 to make a complaint.

You can learn more about SB 988 by clicking here.

You can watch the press conference and bill signing in the player below or by clicking here.

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