A bill to codify visitation rights for hospital and nursing home patients passed amended in the Alabama Senate on Thursday.
State Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, who is the sponsor of the legislation, has attempted over the last two years to pass this piece of legislation that would allow residents, clients, and patients of health care facilities to “have the right to visit with any individual of their choosing” during the facility visiting hours, according to the bill.
The legislature also requires that hospitals allow at least two hours of daily visitation to the patients’ designated “essential caregiver” and provides for a number of situations where a hospital or nursing home would have to allow visitation, including patients nearing the end of their lives.
“This bill was needed because there are loved ones that are passing away in our health care facilities, especially during the pandemic, and we weren’t able to have access to them or be by their bedside when they were passing away,” Gudger said following the bill’s passage on Thursday, mentioning that it would also require visitation during medical situations like childbirth.
Gudger said that the subject came to his attention following the death of Harold Dallas Sachs, the one-time Alabama Republican Party chief of staff, who died in 2020 after being hospitalized with COVID-19. Bonnie Sachs, Harold’s widow and a constituent in Gudger’s district, had told him about not being able to see her husband in the last few months of his life.
“Bonnie has been an inspiration to us going forward, and Harold Sachs has been an inspiration to do this bill and to make sure it was done correctly,” Gudger said. “We did a visitation bill two years ago. It did not have as much teeth in the bill as we thought that it was going to when it hit the House floor; it changed a little bit. So we wanted to make sure we came back, so everyone has access to their loved ones in any healthcare facility as we go forward.”
The bill is named for Harold Sachs, as well as Anne Roberts, wife of state Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, who died in 2022. The bill now moves to the state House for consideration.