Virginia Nursing Home Residents Could Get Virtual Visits Under New Bill

Nursing homes would be required to allow virtual visits from family members, under a new Virginia House bill.

By Arianna Coghill
August 27, 2020

Currently, almost half of Virginia’s COVID-19 outbreaks happen inside the state’s long-term care facilities.

RICHMOND-Nursing home residents in Virginia have been hit the hardest by COVID-19. Almost half of the commonwealth’s outbreaks, 378 of the 815, took place inside long-term care facilities. That’s caused the operations to be locked down and residents to feel isolated, unable to visit with family and friends. A new bill in the Virginia House would help change that.

“There have been so many stories around about people who have family members inside assisted living facilities and nursing homes who’ve been virtually cut off from their family members during this crisis, for understandable reasons,” said Del. Christopher T. Head (R-Botetourt).

Head, who proposed HB 5041, said it would allow for residents in these facilities to receive visits through audio and visual technology when people can’t come in person. On Thursday, the Virginia House of Delegates passed the bill on second reading.

House Hears a Detailed Proposal

Under the proposal, all nursing homes and certified nursing facilities will be required to set up a protocol for public health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan will include a way for each patient to “receive visits, consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” it states.

If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the building, preventing family members from showing up in person, then the facility will be required to provide ways for families to visit virtually. Either online or in person, the facilities would have to allow at least one visit every 10 calendar days for each patient.

Now if people simply don’t want to see family members, they won’t be forced to. Any resident will be able to waive their one visit per 10-day requirement, simply by talking with local staff members. The nursing home would also have to tell patients and family members about the plan, either by posting it on their website or delivering a copy.

The bill faces one more vote in the House. If it passes, the Senate will have to approve before it goes to the governor’s desk.

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