OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill to ensure that long-term care facilities have a visitation plan in place in the event of future emergencies similar to the COVID-19 pandemic has been signed into law.
Sen. Greg McCortney said while strict no visitor policies were enacted in long-term care facilities to save lives by reducing the spread of COVID-19, such policies impacted the mental and emotional health of both nursing home residents and their families.
“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.”
House Bill 2566 requires every long-term care facilities to provide residents reasonable access to family, compassionate caregivers, such as hospice and palliative caregivers, essential support persons and the Oklahoma Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
Long-term care facilities would also be required to provide residents access to health care providers.
The legislation mandates that long-term facilities submit emergency visitation procedures to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).
Visitation and access for nursing home residents would be subject to reasonable clinical and safety restrictions 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 can be temporarily suspended for a period not exceeding 72 hours, based on OSDH’s emergency preparedness plan.
On Tuesday, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the bill into law.