Alabama Senate Passes Law Protecting Hospital Visitation Rights

The Alabama Senate passed a bill on March 23rd, 2023 which guarantees hospital and nursing home patients to designate an “essential caregiver” who is ensured regular visitation rights of at least two hours a day.

The bill, which passed unanimously with a vote of 33-0, was written in response to the ongoing restrictions on healthcare facility visitation since the COVID-19 pandemic. It repeals the existing law which required healthcare facilities to adopt visitation policies that met certain standards following COVID-19 restrictions.

The patient is allowed to rotate their designated essential caregiver, and a different one can be chosen each day. If the patient is incapacitated and thus unable to designate an essential caregiver themselves, a family member may appoint one on their behalf.

The bill’s champion, Senator Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman), noted that every Alabama family has experienced separation from a loved one during the pandemic. He also was quick to state that the bill was not intended as criticism of healthcare facilities or their employees, calling them heroes.

Senator Gudger introduced this bill following a conversation with Bonnie Sachs, the wife of Alabama’s Republican Party’s longtime chief of staff, who died in November of 2020. At her husband’s funeral, she explained that she was unable to see her husband of 50 years before his passing due to hospital visitation restrictions.

Protections Allow for Guaranteed Visitation Under Specific Circumstances

Under this new legislation, hospitals and nursing homes would be required to allow at least two hours of visitation in addition to any other visitation provided for in the facility’s policy. The circumstances include:

  • Pediatric patients.
  • Childbirth, including labor and delivery.
  • End-of-life circumstances.
  • Patients who were living with family prior to being admitted to the facility and are struggling with the lack of in-person family support and the change in environment.
  • Patients facing at least one major medical decision.
  • Patients experiencing emotional distress.
  • Patients grieving the loss of a friend or family member.
  • Patients who need encouragement from family or caregivers to eat or drink.
  • Patients who have become uncharacteristically silent after interacting regularly previously.

Experienced Alabama Family Law Attorneys

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