Hospital visitation bill heads to Indiana governor

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INDIANAPOLIS — A bill headed to the governor’s desk addresses a heartbreaking result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many hoosiers were kept away from loved ones in hospitals or long-term care facilities in the name of safety.

However, some believe there were patients who suffered more because of visitation restrictions.

Vickie Ayres said her mother, Carolyn Augst was one of them.

“She had a wonderful sense of humor, she loved her children and her grandchildren,” said Ayres.

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t allow Carolyn to be with her family. Her long-term care facility didn’t accept any visitors.

“My mom would call and cry and there was nothing I could do,” said Ayres.

Her facility wouldn’t even let her visit through the window.

“I believe that the isolation contributed to her decline and her death,” explained Ayres.

Though Carolyn is no longer here, Ayres wanted to advocate for SB 202 in her honor.

“It forces all facilities to have and implement an essential family caregivers program,” said Ayres.

As long as certain people follow set safety guidelines, hospitals and long-term care facilities would no longer be able to have blanket “no visitation” policies under this bill.

“Locking people out of longterm care facilities or hospitals was truly detrimental to the patient,” said SB 202 author Sen. Linda Rogers.

Her mother was also in a nursing home during the pandemic.

“She screamed out at me, you found me! You found me! I’ve been dropped off at this place, I don’t know where I am and I’m so glad that you’re here please don’t ever leave me again,” said Sen. Rogers.

So, she worked with nursing home and hospital associations to get this bill the support it needed to pass.

“Striking that balance is really key and that’s what I think was done here,” said Indiana Hospital Association President Brian Tabor.

Though it’s difficult for her to talk about, Ayres said she is glad she spoke in favor of this important legislation.

“We miss her,” said Ayres. “I think she would be proud of me.”

The bill is headed to the governor next.

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