New COVID-19 law forces TN hospitals to allow family visitation to dying patients

Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Should dying COVID patients be able to receive in-person visitation?

Under a new state law passed with a slew of other COVID-19 restrictions, end-of-life COVID-19 visitations would be allowed in Tennessee hospitals, forcing them to change visitor guidelines.

However, the safety concern is the family member would be directly exposed to a COVID-positive patient, and in the worst-case scenario, the visitor could end up in a hospital bed themselves.

The new changes come to Tennessee thanks to a far-reaching omnibus COVID restrictions bill.

“We’ve got real problems here in Tennessee, like, we’re at the bottom when it comes to funding our public schools. We’ve got health crisis that needs attention. For example, we could expand Medicaid to help push back against medical bankruptcies and hospital closures, but instead of tackling real issues like that, they get together to play politics with COVID,” Dr. Jason Martin, and ICU doctor said.

Dr. Martin, who has been on the frontlines of the pandemic and often a communication buffer holding an iPad between families and dying COVID patients, says the separation takes a toll on families.

“End-of-life care in an ICU with COVIDis terrible, often patients are isolated from their families and it’s a life-changing experience to observe that kind of death,” Dr. Martin said.

Despite some initial concerns, Governor Bill Lee signed the bill forcing hospitals to allow families to be at the side of COVID patients who are dying.

Some Tennesseans say they recognize the possible danger it could propose.

“I think if it was me — I would want somebody from my family to be with me — I really, I really really would,” Emma Craig said.

But many say if it could be done safely patients should have their family by their side.

“I believe if you’re vaccinated, and you have your mask and those who are not vaccinated have your mask follow those protocols because that still is your loved one vaccinated or unvaccinated,” Gala Freeland said.

Dr. Martin, who is running in the Democratic primary for Governor, says the goal is for everyone to prevent possible COVID hospitalizations and politicians should not stand in the way of public health

“It’s political in nature, it’s not related to medical data — it’s not really public health, they’re just trying to score political points with their base,” he said.

Dr. Martin says the goal should be to avoid the hospital altogether.

“This is a largely vaccine-preventable disease at this point not to say that they aren’t any breakthrough cases but typically when breakthroughs cases occur they’re less severe and much less likely to land you with a life-threatening illness,” Martin said.

The pandemic is not over yet. Experts are warning of another possible surge in the weeks ahead.

As of Monday, Tennessee currently has over 600 positive cases of COVID-19 in hospitals with over 200 in the ICU.

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