New Missouri law ends restrictions on visiting patients in long-term care, hospitals

(The Center Square) – A bill allowing “compassionate care visitors” access to patients of hospitals or residents of long-term care facilities was signed into law Thursday by Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson.

House Bill 2116, sponsored by Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, creates the “No Patient Left Alone Act/Essential Caregiver Program Act.” It was the Republican’s response to restrictions on visits to patients and residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill passed 129-0 with 18 abstentions during the last week of the legislative session.

“No individual should ever be isolated when in critical care at hospitals or care facilities, and we are happy to sign this legislation to ensure that they won’t be,” Parson said in a statement announcing the signing.

During a Downsizing State Government Committee hearing in January, the Missouri Hospital Association, the Missouri Assisted Living Association, Saint Luke’s Health System and the Missouri Health Care Association opposed the bill.

In its 2022 legislative guide, the Missouri Hospital Association stated it opposed legislation “that would unduly restrict hospital patient visitation policies and limit their ability to ensure the safety and security of staff and patients.”

“Strengthening these patient protections for all Missourians is not only common sense, but it will help our most vulnerable citizens during critical moments of their lives,” majority leader Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, said in a statement.

The legislation defines a “compassionate care visitor” as any person requested by the patient or resident to provide in-person contact during visiting hours. Health care facilities must allow simultaneous contact by two compassionate care visitors.

The bill states no health care facility will be held liable for damages involving a liability claim arising from compliance with the new law. The law requires hospitals and facilities to inform, in writing, a resident or their guardian or representative of their right to in-person care.

Health care facilities may petition for suspension of in-person visitation for a period of up to seven days for good cause. The law doesn’t apply to residents whose condition necessitates limited visitation for reasons unrelated to a declared state of emergency.

The law gives health care providers immunity from civil liability for injury or harm caused by exposure to a contagious disease or harmful agent specified during the state of emergency. It also protects providers from liability when injury or harm was caused by visitors in the facility.

“This is a victory for patient advocates who no longer have to jump through administrative hoops to stand beside and comfort their family members during a hospital stay,” Plocher said. “Access to family or loved ones during medical care is not a privilege, it is a right.”

Gov. Parson also signed into law the following:

Senate Bill 710: School nurses will be required to have individualized health care plans for students with epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

House Bill 2331: Health care facility inspections and surveys will be modified. The organ donor program will be changed to ensure long-term sustainability through increased education and awareness.

House Bill 2168: An annual unemployment automation adjustment equal to .02% of total taxable wages will be collected with an amount not to exceed $5 million.

House Bill 1662: References to race, color, religion or national origin will be removed from any deed recorded after Aug. 28.

Senate Bill 758: The state will be allowed to utilize new management models for public projects to potentially decrease costs and increase efficiency.

Senate Bill 886: The law changes provisions for trusts, including allowing a county commission to use the principal of a cemetery trust fund for basic maintenance of a cemetery when net income from the trust is insufficient for support, maintenance and beautification.

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