TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida bill that would require the right to in-person visits at hospitals was sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis from the state legislature on April 5. He signed the bill, the “No Patient Left Alone Act,” on April 6.

Called the “No Patient Left Alone Act,” the bill would require hospitals, nursing facilities, hospices, assisted living facilities and care centers for the developmentally disabled to allow in-person visits.

Senate Bill 988, as written and delivered to the governor to sign or veto, would require each of the affected facility types to create procedures and policies to allow visitation, with rules in place for infection control and education, visitor screening, dealing with personal protective equipment and other infection protocols for visitors.

Additionally, the length of visits must have a set of standards that meet rules in state statutes ss. 400.022(1)(b) and 429.28(1)(d), as well as policies to ensure staff follow the rules in place. Under the bill, if made law, patients would be allowed to pick who can see them while they are hospitalized or under care in a facility.

“A resident, client, or patient may designate a visitor who is a family member, friend, guardian, or other individual as an essential caregiver,” SB 988 says. “The provider must allow in-person visitation by the essential caregiver for at least 2 hours daily in addition to any other visitation authorized by the provider.”

The legislation also includes a list of conditions and situations that the visitation procedures would apply to.

They include:

  • End-of-life situations.
  • A resident, client, or patient who was living with family before being admitted to the provider’s care is struggling with the change in environment and lack of in-person family support.
  • The resident, client, or patient is making one or more major medical decisions.
  • A resident, client, or patient is experiencing emotional distress or grieving the loss of a friend or family member who recently died.
  • A resident, client, or patient needs cueing or encouragement to eat or drink which was previously provided by a family member or caregiver.
  • A resident, client, or patient who used to talk and interact with others is seldom speaking.
  • For hospitals, childbirth, including labor and delivery.
  • Pediatric patients.
    • The policies and procedures may require a visitor to agree in writing to follow the provider’s policies and procedures. A provider may suspend in-person visitation of a specific visitor if the visitor violates the provider’s policies and procedures.
    • The providers shall provide their visitation policies and procedures to the agency when applying for initial licensure, licensure renewal, or change of ownership. The provider must make the visitation policies and procedures available to the agency for review at any time, upon request.
    • Within 24 hours after establishing the policies and procedures required under this section, providers must make such policies and procedures easily accessible from the homepage of their websites.

Additionally, SB 988 says The Agency for Health Care “shall dedicate a stand-alone page on its website to explain the visitation requirements of this section and provide a link to the agency’s webpage to report complaints.”

The bill requires the policies to be created and then published online in an easily accessible format. If signed into law, the legislation would take effect immediately.