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Alabama lawmakers advance hospital visitation protections

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Alabama lawmakers on Thursday advanced legislation requiring hospitals and nursing homes to allow in-person visits, even during a pandemic.

The Alabama Senate approved the bill on a 33-0 vote after members shared stories of people being separated from loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives. Lawmakers in several other states have also moved to limit restrictions on visitations such as those imposed during the pandemic.

The bill's sponsor Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, said he introduced the bill after constituent Bonnie Sachs approached him at her husband's funeral and described how she was unable to see her husband of 50 years before he died because of visitation restrictions. Lawmakers approved a bill two years ago, but Gudger said that did not go as far as they wanted.

Under the Senate-passed bill, patients would designate an essential caregiver who would be allowed two hours of daily visitation. It would also require facilities to allow visitation for end-of-life situations, childbirth, pediatric patients, and when patients need additional support for things like making major decisions or help with eating and drinking.

The legislation additionally says a facility's visitation policies cannot be more stringent than the safety rules applied to the facility’s staff and may not require proof of any vaccination or immunization.

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