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State legislature passes bill requiring long-term care visitation plan during health emergencies

Nursing homes
Posted at 4:38 PM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 23:20:30-04

TULSA, Okla. — The Oklahoma State Senate approved House Bill 2566, this week. The bill would require long-term care facilities to establish a visitation plan for its residents during a widespread health emergency.

According to the bill, every long-term care facility in Oklahoma must provide reasonable access to a family member or caregiver and health care providers contracted by the facility. It also prohibits facilities from individually eliminating visitation to a resident for any reason.

The bill passes after many long-term care residents were required to stay isolated from anyone outside the facility for many months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Mel Phillips, a resident at The Parke Assisted Living, it was over a year before she got to see her family face-to-face again.

"I thought, 'It won't last forever,' but then it did," she said.

Michayne Morris, the facility's executive director, reopened The Parke to visitors in March.

"We can go out now which is heavenly," Phillips said.

A feeling, far from the emotions Phillips felt during the pandemic. She was quarantined in her room, away from neighbors, and only able to speak with her daughters over the phone.

"It finally got to where I, to be truthful with you, was deeply depressed," Phillips said.

"It was excruciating to watch" Morris said.

Although she cannot fathom having to suffer through another pandemic, Phillips is at peace knowing her daughters will be by her side the next time around.

"It's just hard to express how jubilant I'd be to get to see my family through a virus or anything," she said.

The bill requires each facility submit its plan to the Oklahoma State Department of Health for safety review. The bill has been sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt's desk to be signed into law.

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