When the COVID-19 pandemic was raging, vaccination status determined who could visit family members who were confined to nursing homes, hospitals and hospice facilities and who could not. Now no Florida health care facility may require vaccination as a condition of visitation under a new measure signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this month.
Specifically, SB 988 or the No Patient Left Alone Act, any health care facility in the state must allow in-person visitation in end-of-life situations; if a patient or resident is struggling with the transition to residency in a long-term or other health care facility after previously living with a family member; the patient or resident needs encouragement to eat or drink that was previously provided by a family member or caregiver so long as the patient or resident does not object to the visits.
Hospitals must also allow in-person visitation for childbirth including labor and delivery, and for pediatric patients.
Under the new law, a resident, client, or patient has the option to designate a visitor who is a family member, friend, guardian, or another individual as an essential caregiver, and the provider must allow in-person visitation by the essential caregiver for at least two hours daily in addition to any other visitation period designated by the facility.
Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis said that the new law is critical to protecting the rights of those in long-term and other health care facilities.
“Patients shouldn’t be denied the right to see their loved ones, especially during life’s difficult moments,” DeSantis said. “With the signing of this legislation, Florida law now guarantees this right.”
The No Patient Left Alone Act went into effect as soon as Gov. DeSantis signed it, but by May 6, all Florida hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and intermediate care facilities for the developmentally disabled must adopt and publicly post on the home page of their websites their visitation policies including visiting hours and health or safety procedures required for visitors.