Rick Jasperse Report From The Capitol
This past week was a busy one, and I'll have to tell you very long, because on Monday night we stayed there till 11:30 pm. Monday was Crossover Day, where a bill had to pass out of the House to be acted on by the Senate this year. The committees have been very busy the last week or so passing legislation they thought was important, bills that we needed to look at to be voted on the House floor. Some bills are a lot more important than others, but important if it affected you or something you're interested in.
I'll have to tell you the most important bill we passed and the most moving over the past few weeks was House Bill 290. It's being carried by my good friend Ed Setzler from Cobb County. HB 290 is called "Patient and Resident Representation and Visitation Act." Ed did this bill in an effort to protect visitation rights for authorized legal representatives of patients or residents in hospitals or long-term facilities. If you had a loved one you cared for or were responsible for and you couldn't see them, you have an interest in this bill. This was an issue for families throughout the pandemic. It was not a simple issue for anyone and has been difficult to get to a solution.
I have had many, many calls over the last year about this and have personally been affected by it, also. During the Covid pandemic, especially in the beginning, everyone was scared and trying to do all they could to prevent the spread of Covid and keep our hospitals open and functioning while they learned how to deal with it. It was a super stressful time for everyone, especially those that have loved ones with Covid in the hospital or maybe some other type of sickness that they needed care of healthcare professionals.
Representative Setzler has worked very hard with the Human Relations and Aging Committee, of which I'm a member, and everyone involved to try to find the right mix of law to help patients and families and healthcare providers do what they need to do. I believe he had 12 or 13 different versions of the bill we passed out last week in an effort to meet the needs of the healthcare folks and preserve the needs of patients and their families to be involved in their care.
The testimony in the committees and on the House floor was very moving, and it showed the stress that families and their caregivers were under during Covid. Healthcare providers are also under incredible stress in a Herculean effort to prevent further spread and to care for Georgians. In HB 290, hospitals and long-term care facilities would be prohibited from implementing policies that deny in-person physical contact with a designated legal representative for at least one hour per day during any hospitalization, treatment, or residence that lasts longer than 12 hours. If a treatment lasts longer than 24 hours, residents could have in-person visitations with at least two legal representatives or essential caregivers for at least two consecutive hours each day.
This bill would allow a temporary suspension of visitation for patients in operating rooms, transplant wards, or those who require physical isolation for immunocompromised conditions. HB 290 would allow hospitals and long-term care facilities to establish reasonable safety requirements that would also be posted on the facility's website for a visitor to follow. Families and caregivers would be given direct contact information to submit complaints if these rights are infringed upon, and the Governor's ability to waive these provisions during a public health emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, would be limited under this bill.
Representative Setzler will continue to work on his bill as it works its way through the Senate, and I look forward to voting for it again in the near future.
I know I didn't talk about all the other bills that were passed on Crossover Day, and if you would like a list of them with a short description about them, email me, and I will be glad to provide them for you. I thought House 290 deserved an explanation all its own. My Capitol office number is 404-656-7153, my home 770-893-2039, and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact me anytime.