Governor Kay Ivey signed Senate Bill 113 into law on Thursday, which strengthens a patient’s rights by allowing their family members to be present in a hospital room during COVID or other sicknesses. During the height of the COVID pandemic, thousands of Alabamians died alone while their loved ones were forced to remain outside. SB113 is also known as the Harold Sachs and Anne Roberts Act. Immediately after the signing, Senators, Representatives, and supporters filled the State House press room to discuss the bill.
“We heard an outcry from the public of people who wanted to be with their loved one while they were in a hospital, nursing home, or any kind of healthcare facility,” says Representative Debbie Wood, who carried the bill through the House.
Representative Wood’s mother passed away from COVID in 2021, and the family was not allowed into the facility. She continued, “What haunted me was the fact my mother may have thought that we abandoned her because we were not with her. When she needed us the most, we were cut off. That’s what this bill is about.”
This bill was initially passed in 2021 and was known as “The Harold Sachs Act.” However, some family members across Alabama were still being denied entry into hospital rooms. Alabama State Senators Garlan Gudger and Dan Roberts were instrumental in rewriting and sponsoring the new, stronger version of the bill. Senator Roberts’ wife, Anne, passed away in 2022, and her family was denied entry into the room even though the law was already in effect. Anne’s name was added to the bill during this session.
“This has been a team effort. The Sachs family first kicked off this idea, but it was the result of an outcry that we heard all over the state. Then it was our turn, the Roberts family. We said goodbye to my beloved wife of 42 and a half years, and that was it. All of us were denied the opportunity to be with our loved ones in their final days. Thank you for the support we’ve had from all who are on this stage, but also from others across the state,” says Senator Roberts.
Senator Garlan Gudger was a family friend of the Sachs family and attended Harold’s funeral. This is where he learned of the tragic story of Harold Sachs passing alone with the family being denied entry into the hospital room.
“I’m thankful that this bill has corrected that wrong and that we have worked together as a team. Everyone on this stage, Senate and House, passed [this bill] almost unanimously through both chambers, and the process at the State Government worked this time. I’m thankful that our heavenly father has given us tools and attributes to use, and those tools in the state government are the process of getting bills passed that are good bills we can all stand behind,” says Senator Gudger.
Harold Sachs served as the Executive Director of the Republican Party for over a decade before passing from COVID in 2021. Emee Baldwin is the granddaughter of the late Harold Sachs and the founder of PoppysPurpose.org, the organization behind these bills.
“I’m so excited that this bill has passed. [During COVID] Our nurses and doctors did great. They did everything that they could, but sometimes you just need that familiar face in the room with you. You need that familiar touch to be there with you. You need someone there to pray with you, to lay hands over you, just to encourage you and have a smiling face. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to get this bill passed. It’s truly going to change patients’ lives here in Alabama,” says Baldwin.
Emme Baldwin and the Sachs family led the charge to create these bills and push them through the Legislature during 2021-2023. Baldwin now serves as a neonatal intensive care nurse in Birmingham.
SB113 is set to take effect immediately.