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Ohio bill would ensure long-term patients never left alone

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(The Center Square) – COVID-19 pandemic issues led to legislation that would ensure patients at long-term care facilities in Ohio would have an advocate and not be left alone.

The Never Left Alone Act would create advocates for patients’ health who would be present at facilities during a patient’s stay. The advocate could include the patient’s spouse, family member, companion or guardian.

Facilities would not have to employ or contract with someone to serve as an advocate. Also, the bill would require the Ohio Department of Health to develop a “Never Alone” information sheet that describes the duties and responsibilities of a facility.

“Over the last three years, we have gained a heightened awareness of the need for legislation that protects the right of a patient to have access to a loved one or advocate to act on behalf of their best interest while in a hospital or care facility,” said Rep. Melanie Miller, R-Ashland. “Staffing shortages and severe inpatient facility visitation protocols left thousands of Ohioans without the attention they desperately needed and even worse, many saw the end of their life in a cold empty room without a familiar voice or hand to hold.”

The bill also attempts to balance protecting the rights and interests of patients with the health and safety concerns of the care facilities by ensuring that patients are not isolated from loved ones and relieving the care facilities from specific risks and liabilities associated with exposure.

“What happened to people during COVID must never be allowed to happen again,” said Rep. Beth Lear, R-Galena. “Our grandparents, spouses, loved ones and children should never be left alone to suffer. We cannot give up our compassion and humanity in the name of fear. I’m so grateful to share sponsorship of this important bill with Rep. Melanie Miller and look forward to helping navigate it through the committee process to the governor’s desk.”

Miller also emphasized the importance of a patient having access to a loved one during such dire times.

“We believe that no Ohioan should have to face hospitalization or death alone,” Miller said. “‘The Never Alone Act’ will finally ensure that every inpatient Ohioan will be allowed access to someone who can advocate for their health and also be the hand they hold when they take their final breath. Every one of us deserves the comfort of a loved one during times of need and at the end of life.”

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