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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – The Florida Senate began moving forward Thursday with a proposal that is designed to ensure patients and residents of hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care facilities can have visitors.

The Senate Health Policy Committee unanimously approved the bill (SB 988), sponsored by Sen. Ileana Garcia and dubbed the “No Patient Left Alone Act.”

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It comes after many facilities stopped or limited visitation for periods during the COVID-19 pandemic. Garcia, R-Miami, said she is seeking to create a “balance” in how such situations are handled.

“People need a hug,” Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said. “Personal touch and contact with your family is so vital to your health and existence.”

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The bill would direct health-care providers to allow patients or residents to have visitors. If access needs to be restricted for health or safety concerns, the providers would have to “develop alternate visitation protocols that allow visitation to the greatest extent possible while maintaining client health and safety.”

The proposal also would require in-person visits in certain circumstances, such as end-of-life situations; times when patients or residents are grieving deaths of friends or family members; and situations when patients or residents need encouragement to eat or drink and are experiencing weight loss or dehydration.

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