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Georgia legislation goals to reunite households with family members in nursing houses and hospitals throughout a pandemic

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Georgia lawmakers are proposing a new bill that will allow families to socialize with their sick and elderly loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes during the pandemic.

Across the country, hospitals and long-term carers have banned visits to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The proposal would allow residents and patients to see two family members for at least two hours a day.

The proposal would only apply to patients staying in a facility for more than 24 hours. Institutions can set their own requirements for visitors, such as: B. Quick COVID tests, wearing masks and PPE, and following social distancing guidelines.

The bill also provides legal protection for hospitals and nursing homes.

Georgia lawmaker Ed Setzler said he introduced the bill that would allow families to see each other particularly in dire circumstances.

“Patients have the right to see their family members in difficult circumstances and shouldn’t have to die looking at their family members through the screen or iPhone,” he told local ABC partner WSBTV.

Georgia Rep. Bonnie Rich, who is one of the five lawmakers who co-sponsored the bill, told ABC News, “This has been taking too long. When this started there was a lot of fear and confusion about COVID-19 and there was a shortage of PPE, but we don’t currently have any of these situations.

The bill is currently being debated in the Georgia House Human Relations and Aging Committee. Last week lawmakers spent three hours listening to locals who shared their concerns and support for the law.

“I have a voter whose father caught COVID-19 but refused to go to the hospital because he refused to be isolated and he died at home,” said Rich.

Rich himself ended up in intensive care at the beginning of the pandemic and was moved to a blood fusion clinic because the hospital needed space for coronavirus patients.

“If I had got sick a week later, I would have been separated from my family. I can’t tell you how awful that would have been. That motivated me to sponsor the bill, ”she said.

PHOTO: An elderly man is in a wheelchair in a nursing home.

If passed, the law will come into force on July 1st.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp introduced a ban on long-term care facilities in April. Until September, he allowed visits to nursing homes in counties with low infection rates, but Rich said few facilities offer meaningful face-to-face visits.

While the bill could be of benefit to families who have been estranged for a year in the pandemic, the Georgia Health Care Association said it will put vulnerable communities at risk.

The group said that “HB 290, as currently written, would put long-term care communities in danger of failing to comply with orders from Kemp and the administrative order of the state’s Department of Health.” It works with the sponsors of the bill to “resolve all conflicts”.

To date, Georgia has had more than 792,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 13,900 deaths with an additional 1,931 probable deaths.

Care facilities were hit particularly hard by the crisis.

There are currently 25,286 COVID-19 positive residents and 14,500 virus cases among the staff of 708 nursing homes and assisted living communities in Georgia, according to the state’s latest long-term care facility report dated Feb.15.

A total of 4,147 residents have died since the pandemic began.

Ginny Helms, the president and CEO of LeadingAge Georgia, which represents nursing homes and assisted living communities across the state, told ABC News that vaccinated family members could visit their elderly relatives in facilities.

“When families are vaccinated, what they want most is to see loved ones. So we believe safe visits are possible and we are pushing for it, ”she said, noting that the bill needs to be revised from its current form.

She said lawmakers should follow Texas’ nursing home visiting model and implement coronavirus safety measures into the plan.

Rich said hospital and nursing home officials had started working with lawmakers on the bill and it was being revised to appease all parties.

“This is really a patient right. The patient suffers most when apart, ”said Rich.