House Substitute 1 for House Bill 242
152nd General Assembly (Present)
Senate Health & Social Services 7/21/23
Awaiting consideration in Committee
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 16 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO HOSPITAL VISITATION POLICY.
This legislation is an attempt to strike a balance between the need to protect hospital staff, hospital patients, and the public from harm during a State of Emergency, pandemic, or infectious disease outbreak with the expectation that patients should be able to receive support from their family and spiritual counselors during a time of personal crisis. This act shall be known as "The No Patient Left Alone Act." Specifically, it migrates decision-making authority on visitation policies from elected and unelected state officials to the medical personnel operating Delaware’s hospitals – the trained professionals best positioned to make these difficult decisions during an especially challenging time. While it is the intention of this act to facilitate limited in-person patient visitation, its gives hospitals and designated medical professionals broad authority and discretion to safeguard the welfare of all involved parties. Hospitals would be able to: restrict the number of visitors patients could receive daily; require visitors to undergo and pass a specified health screening; and use personal protective equipment while visiting. Hospitals would be able to specify the required personal protective equipment, making it available for visitors to purchase on-site, subject to availability. Entry could be denied to visitors that failed their health screenings; were found to have a communicable disease; were found to have been exposed to a communicable disease; or failed to sign a statement indicating that they understood the visitation policy, and held the hospital and its staff harmless for all assumed risk directly associated with the primary cause of the State of Emergency, pandemic, or infectious disease outbreak. Attending physicians and other medical professionals designated in the bill would retain the authority to deny in-person visitation if they deemed their patients would be at risk for contracting an infectious disease or if they believed visitation posed a serious community health risk. Such determinations would be valid for up to seven days and subject to renewal. Hospitals could deny visitation if a state agency regulation, federal order, federal law, or federal regulation required it. If a prospective hospital visitor were denied in-person visitation with patients, the hospital would be required, to its best efforts, to develop alternate visitation protocols that would allow visitation to the greatest extent safely possible. This could include, but not be limited to, streaming audio and video. Hospitals could not prohibit in-person visitation by a religious counselor to a seriously ill or dying patient, providing that the counselor complied with all visitation mandates established pursuant to this act. A visit by a religious counselor would not be counted against any daily visitation limit set by the hospital. The Department of Health and Social Services would be responsible for overseeing the implementation, operation, and enforcement of this act. Hospitals could be subject to fines for violating the terms of this act, providing the violations continue after the hospitals have been informed of the need to take corrective action. This measure would become effective 180 days after its enactment. This substitute bill differs from the bill it replaces in the following ways: • It eliminates the liability provisions previously contained on lines 56 through 62, and line 103, replacing it with a new liability section - 1014A (c)(3)(E) - that is more refined and requires a signed acknowledgment by the visitor of the risk they are assuming. This acknowledgement does not allow the hospital or personnel to be held harmless for intentional misconduct or gross negligence. • It adds the terms “advanced practice clinician, or chief medical officer” to the sections previously on lines 63 through 67 dealing with the healthcare professionals authorized to restrict visitation for justifiable medical or public health reasons. • Adds the term “state agency regulation” to the section previously on lines 48 through 50 that specify the reasons a hospital may be compelled to deny visitation. • Rewrites the section previously on lines 41 through 47 to improve the clarity of the list of conditions under which a hospital can deny entry to, or remove a visitor from, the hospital's premises. • Corrects language previously on lines 39 through 40 to reflect an earlier change to the bill that deals with the requirement for visitors to wear personal protective equipment, as stipulated by the hospital, when visiting a hospital patient. • Adds a new section - 1014A (i) - stipulating that other than the potential restrictions stipulated in Subsection (c) and Subsection (e) a hospital may not prohibit in-person visitation by a doula providing doula services as defined in § 6536A of Title 11 with a pregnant or postpartum person.
Takes effect upon being signed into law