Legislation by State Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) to establish certain visitation policies for hospitals and nursing homes passed the Senate unanimously on Thursday.

The bill would ensure the right to visit anyone in a health care facility during visiting hours without having to show proof of vaccination and allow "consensual physical contact between a visitor and a resident, client, or patient."

Gudger's bill references Harold Sachs and Ann Roberts in the legislation. Sachs, a longtime chief of staff for the Alabama Republican Party, passed away in November 2020 after weeks in the hospital battling COVID-19 alone. Anne Roberts, the wife of State Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook), also passed away in March 2022.

"I don't think we could've gotten any better care than we got and, yes, being on the first floor, we stood outside a window for 48-49 days and weren't allowed to go in," Roberts said on the Senate floor Thursday. "I would've bought a spacesuit to go in. To not be able to touch my wife's hand…to not be able to do any of that, but we could still see her through a window…the Sachs family did not have that privilege, and so many did not."

Emee Baldwin, the granddaughter of Harold and Bonnie Sachs, founded Poppy's Purpose, a patient's rights advocacy group because she "never wanted another person to struggle through this ordeal."

"For me, my Poppy was hospitalized for several weeks and ultimately died alone," Baldwin wrote on a change.org petition in favor of the legislation. "This same thing happened to thousands of other families and continues to happen across the state as hospitals still have their doors closed. Change has to happen. No one deserves to be left alone at such a poignant time in their life. This bill allows every patient, no matter the circumstance, to safely have an advocate at their side. Although this bill has made it through the Senate, we still have a long way to go!"

Gudger said Thursday that "we have allowed today with the passage of this for every Alabamian to be able to walk in and be with their loved ones at any procedure that's going to be going on as essential caregiver and we have allowed Alabamians to have justice and freedom to do what they need to do and to be with their loved ones."

The legislation would also "require healthcare facilities to allow visitors for residents, clients, or patients in certain situations, including end-of-life scenarios; childbirth; pediatric care; and for those who are having adjustment issues, making a major medical decision, experiencing emotional distress or grief, or struggling to eat, drink, or speak in certain situations."

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.

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