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New NC law ensures patients won’t suffer, die alone in facilities

<i>WLOS</i><br/>Local resident Kim Cartrett shares her story about being able to visit her grandfather
Local resident Kim Cartrett shares her story about being able to visit her grandfather

By Hannah Mackenzie

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    ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — A new North Carolina law signed Friday, Oct. 15 by Gov. Roy Cooper ensures patient visitation rights will not be impacted during declared states of emergency or disasters unless stated otherwise by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or federal law.

The No Patient Left Alone Act hits close to home for local resident Kim Cartrett. Her grandfather, McKinley Baker, died in August after a six-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

“My grandpa meant the world to me,” Cartrett said. “He was so silly and funny and sweet; the kindest man you’ve ever met in your life. Would give you the shirt off his back; he’d do anything to help.”

Cartrett was fortunate to get to say goodbye to her grandfather, thanks to a nurse who bent the rules at the nursing home he lived in following a COVID-19 scare.

“I’m very grateful for that nurse that let me in. I’m glad I got to see him and say goodbye; it was closure that I needed,” Cartrett said. “No one should be stripped of that final chance to say goodbye to someone they love – absolutely not. I don’t care what the situation is, what’s going on in the world.”

According to Cartrett, her grandmother is also in a nursing home. She hasn’t been permitted to visit since mid-August. The No Patient Left Alone Act would change that.

“It’s just a gift; thank you to the governor for signing it,” Cartrett said. “I’m sure there’s a whole lot of people out there are grateful right now.”

The law goes into effect on November first and applies to nursing homes, combination homes, hospice care facilities, adult care homes, residential treatment facilities, special care units and hospitals.

Victoria Dunkle, communications and public relations director for AdventHealth, said right now, their facilities are already in compliance with the new law. Dunkle said patients currently are allowed one visitor at a time with exceptions for pediatric patients and end-of-life situations.

“We know that there’s actually a healing effect that comes from being around people you know and love,” Dunkle said. “Having them bring that energy and support to you.”

According to Dunkle, AdventHealth, along with hospital systems across the country, were forced to suspend visiting hours during the peak of the pandemic.

Visitation hours were restored as soon as possible, she said.

“We have reached a point where we understand the virus a little bit more,” Dunkle said. “We have tools such as the vaccines and enhanced treatment options that are changing this and allowing us to be able to have less limitations on what we’re doing when it comes to providing the best care for our patients.”

If facilities listed within the No Patient Left Alone Act do not comply with the law, they will receive a warning. Refusal to amend visitation rights within 24-hours after the warning could lead to a fine of at least $500 per day, per violation incident.

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