OKLAHOMA CITY – The full Senate has given its approval to a bill aimed at ensuring long-term care facilities have a visitation plan in place in the event of future emergencies. Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, chair of Health and Human Services, is the Senate principal author of House Bill 2566, by Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid. The measure was approved on Wednesday.
McCortney said that the strict no-visitor policies instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic had been put in place to reduce spread and save lives, but those rules took a toll on the mental and emotional health of residents and family members.
“I’ve heard from many Oklahomans who said their loved ones declined markedly during the pandemic because of the lack of in-person contact with their families. Even though the goal was to protect the health of everyone involved, the isolation was devastating,” McCortney said. “The point of this legislation is to take the lessons we’ve learned from COVID-19 and make sure that going forward, long-term care facilities have a plan in place so that visits can safely continue.”
Under HB 2566, every long-term care facility would be required to provide reasonable access to a resident by family, compassionate caregivers, such as hospice and palliative caregivers, essential support persons, and the Oklahoma Long-Term Care Ombudsman. The resident must also receive reasonable access to health care providers. Long-term facilities would be required to submit those procedures for visitation during an emergency to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).
Visitation and access would be subject to reasonable clinical and safety restrictions as ordered by OSDH or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but long-term care facilities would not be allowed to eliminate all visitations. However, visitation could be temporarily suspended for a period not to exceed 72 hours, based on OSDH’s emergency preparedness plan.
“Residents of our long-term care centers suffered for too long during the pandemic without being allowed visits from family members or outside caregivers,” Caldwell said. “This seriously impacted their health and mental health. This bill ensures plans will be in place going forward to assure for safe visitation practices.”
HB 2566 now goes to Gov. Kevin Stitt for his consideration.
For more information, contact Sen. Greg McCortney at 405-521-5541 or email Greg.McCortney@oksenate.gov