Assisted living communities would be required to grant visitation rights to residents during public health emergencies under legislation proposed by North Carolina lawmakers.

Senate Bill 191, the No Patient Left Alone Act, would require any assisted living community, nursing home, hospice care facility, hospital or other healthcare facility to allow at least one caregiver to visit during a public health emergency. Failure to provide visitation could result in a $500 per day fine, according to a report from WRAL.

The legislation was drawn up in response to the “unintended consequences” of COVID-19 prevention measures that left residents and patients without access to a family member or caregiver, according to its sponsors. 

Also if the bill is passed, the state Department of Health and Human Services would be required to develop and disseminate free informational materials explaining resident and patient visitation rights to each facility.

A spokesperson for the North Carolina Senior Living Association said the organization is monitoring the progress of the legislation.

Several states have updated their guidance for long-term care facilities, including assisted living communities, to implement visitation guidance issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, which includes allowing compassionate care visits. Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Washington are among the states adopting some level of essential caregiver laws.

Essential caregiver bills are being considered in Indiana, North Dakota and Texas. Legislation introduced by a New York congresswoman would establish a national essential caregivers program if adopted.

Argentum released an Essential Caregiver Toolkit to help senior living operators establish essential caregiver programs to combat the social isolation residents experienced during the pandemic.