OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill that would add pastors, ministers, spiritual advisors and other religious leaders to the approved list of visitors for patients hospitalized during declared health emergencies was passed on the Senate floor Tuesday. 

Senate Bill 1096 is a follow up to House Bill 2687, also known as the No Patient Left Alone Act, which became law in 2021. HB2687 gives patients the ability to name a guest to have unrestricted visitation, regardless of an emergency declaration by the governor or Legislature.

The House bill, now law, was proposed amid strict lockdowns at medical facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic in which patients who tested positive were unable to have visitors for support. At the time the bill was signed into law, vaccines had just been released to the public and COVID-19 was still spreading rapidly.

“I can’t imagine the heartbreak so many Oklahomans faced when they were unable to be with their loved ones during their greatest time of need,” said SB1096 author Senator Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair. “I fully believe that patient care is enhanced, as is mental health and general well-being, when a patient advocate is present, which is typically a family member or close friend. That’s why we passed the No Patient Left Alone Act last year. This legislation will build upon that measure by allowing pastors, ministers or other faith leaders to be there for those hospitalized and seeking spiritual comfort during a health emergency.”

All visitors will still be required to follow hospital rules, including any PPE requirements.

SB1096 will now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.