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North Carolina bills seeking to preserve patient visitation advance

State lawmakers are pressing to ensure that patients at North Carolina health care facilities can receive visits from family members and clergy, especially during future emergencies.

The Senate and House on Wednesday approved separate measures designed to address situations where patients lacked access to a minister or visits from family during last year’s COVID-19 restrictions and later died.

The Senate’s “No Patient Left Behind” bill, approved on a 40-9 vote, tells hospitals and hospice care, nursing home and residential treatment facilities to allow patients to receive visitors to the fullest extent permitted by federal Medicaid and Medicare rules and regulations. If they don’t, the health care facilities will receive a warning. Those who don’t allow visitors within 24 hours of the warning will face minimum daily fines of $500 per incident. Similar rules apply to adult care homes.

The House voted 98-19 for a measure directing state-licensed hospitals to allow a clergy member to visit any patient who requests one. A cleric may be subject to health screenings and could be turned away if he or she fails to pass that screening or tests positive for an infectious disease.

Each bill still must pass the opposite chamber before being sent to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.

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