Members of the Rhode Island House Republican Caucus will submit legislation to address COVID-19 mandates that have denied access to individuals in hospitals, group homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and Veterans Homes.
The fundamental right to have bedside companionship and health advocacy was denied to many during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Republican legislation will balance safety with the rights of our hospitalized, elderly and disabled patients. The purpose of this bill is to entitle all residents of health-care facilities and group homes the opportunity to designate a support person for regular, in-person visits. The policy is designed to assist facilities in balancing disease transmission protocols with the benefits of having a loved one present during a lockdown.
“The failure for our infirmed to have in-person visits during this pandemic has real consequences,” said Leader Blake Filippi. “We witnessed stressful and at times terrifying experiences for our elderly and disabled when they were sequestered from their loved ones. Additional suffering occurred when patients were denied the comfort of companionship in their final moments. The stories shared by our constituents who were refused access are heart-wrenching. We believe some of this stress could be avoided with this legislation.”
“Thousands of Rhode Islanders lost loved ones in medical or assisted living settings since the onset of this virus. An overwhelming majority of the elderly who succumbed to this virus were never consoled, or were given the chance to personally say goodbye to their families, before they passed on,” said Representative Michael Chippendale. “Most other New England states and healthcare facilities implemented designated support person visitation policies early on in this pandemic. To date, over nine states have established Designated Support Person statutes in response to COVID-19. The fact the Rhode Islanders continue to be denied full access to loved ones due to the Governor’s mandates is unconscionable.”
“Since March, friends, personal care assistants, and family members were unable to serve as intermediaries to help communicate their loved one’s needs” said Representative George Nardone. “A designated support person is an essential worker. They become part of a strategic plan in treating medical conditions, and in helping medical professionals avoid negative health outcomes.”
“We also need to recognize the mental health implications,” said Representative Robert Quattrocchi. “Scientific data proves there are strong, positive correlations between personal social interactions and health outcomes. A designated support person becomes a vital member of an infirmed Rhode Islander’s care and safety team – especially during social distancing mandates.”
“Our legislation allows one select individual to safely remain with the patient, nursing or group home resident at prescribed hours each day or week,” said Representative Justin Price. “The healthcare facilities need our legal support and authorization to permit safe, reasonable accommodations. We all agree that companionship is needed for the best quality of life and recuperation.”
“In Rhode Island, gubernatorial mandates were executed to address only one health concern—the pandemic,” said Representative Jack Lyle. “The Governor’s Executive Orders ignored all other health conditions, to the detriment of hundreds of Rhode Islanders. The social isolation within our healthcare facilities and group homes created unbearable distress to patients, residents and to their loved ones. This overreach needs to be corrected immediately. We offer this legislation to establish standards and protocols for the duration of this pandemic and to set norms for policy in the future.”
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