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Senate OKs bill to require health care facilities to allow visitation

The legislation would guarantee that Alabamians in nursing homes be allowed at least one visitor — even during a public health emergency.


The Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed legislation granting Alabama residents continued access to their loved ones receiving acute care or residing in long-term care facilities during any public health emergency. House Bill 521 was sponsored by state Rep. Debbie Wood, R-Valley, and co-sponsored by Reps. Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, and Tracy Estes, R-Winfield.

Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, sponsored the legislation in the Senate, which would require health care facilities to allow at least one caregiver or visitor to each patient or resident.

Gudger included an amendment that remembers Wood’s mother, Peggy Hamby, who succumbed to COVID-19. This bill represents Hamby and the countless Alabamians who tragically lost relatives and loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill also reflects on the life of Harold Dallas Sachs, Republican Party chief of staff, who also passed last year, by naming this bill in his honor.

“This is an important piece of legislation that I was proud to sponsor in the Senate,” Gudger said. “Patients and residents of health care facilities, even during a public health outbreak, should have the right to a caregiver and have a right to be visited by their loved ones. I was especially proud to use this legislation to honor Representative Debbie Wood’s mother, who unfortunately passed away from the coronavirus last year. She is one of many people in our state who have lost loved ones this past year, and my hope is that the memory of those lost is reflected in this bill. I appreciate Rep. Wood introducing this legislation in the House and ensuring that people in these facilities can get the companionship from loved ones they need.”

Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, voiced his strong support for this bill:

“As tough as the past year has been for the people of our state, we have been able to learn lessons on how we can better handle and respond to future pandemics such as this,” Reed said. “One of those lessons learned has been the need for patients in health care facilities to be able to receive visits from caregivers and their loved ones. It was also a privilege to be able to honor the life of Harold Dallas Sachs, who passed late last year, in this bill. Harold was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and Christian man. He was also a humble servant to the people of Alabama, who worked tirelessly to help this state meet its full potential and leave it in a place better than he found it. I am glad we could honor him in this bill, and I thank Senator Gudger and Representative Wood for all of their important work getting this done.”

“When you are in a hospital, when you are in a nursing home you need an advocate,” said Wood. “So many people in Alabama lost their advocate. We could no longer visit our loved ones. This would set a minimum standard for visitation.”

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10,790 Alabamians died of the COVID-19 global pandemic over the last 13 months.

The legislation passed the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 28 to 0. It passed the House of Representatives on April 7 by a vote of 83 to 4. Since the bill was amended in the Senate, it still has to go back to the House for their consideration of the Senate changes.

Tuesday was day 24 of the 2021 Legislative Session. There is a maximum of 30 legislative days in a regular session of the Alabama Legislature.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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