By Taylor Easley (she/her), Minority Graduate Fellow in Public Health
Imagine a person with a disability was sick, and their care provider had to take them to a medical care facility. Once they get there, the care provider cannot go in to help them. While in medical care facilities, the nurses and doctors are helping the patient but do not know all their needs or accommodations, and something could happen to the patient. Many real stories of people with disabilities in Virginia and across the United States experienced this during the pandemic.
When the pandemic started, medical care facilities wanted to ensure that people were not getting infected and keep people safe. No one was allowed into the medical care facilities with a patient being admitted. Patients could not have someone with them in the hospital for a year or more. This affected so many people, especially people with disabilities. This led to loved ones and people that supported people with disabilities not being able to know what was going on or help the person in the medical care facilities.
Many care providers had to drop off a person with a disability at a medical care facility during COVID-19 and could not go inside the facility with them. This led to people with disabilities being left alone at medical care facilities, and some of them needed the help of their designated support persons. Imagine being a person with an intellectual disability or developmental disability and needing a support person to help advocate on your behalf or assist you with things you might need. Some of these individuals do not communicate verbally, and there was no one there to speak for them or help them understand what was happening to them.
Virginia’s General Assembly passed House Bill 2612 in 2021, creating the right for people with disabilities to have a designated support person with them at all times in medical care facilities.
Medical care facilities are now required to allow a person with a disability to have a designated support person with them if necessary. The designated support person is not a visitor and does not have to follow any restrictions regarding visitors or visitors’ hours. However, a designated support person has to follow all reasonable requirements to protect health and safety.
A person with a disability might have to provide documentation about their disability and their need for support person if the medical care facility requests it. The new law requires that, at the time the patients are admitted, medical care facilities must inform them about the protocols that are in place regarding a person with a disability having a designated support person. The information about the protocols shall also be on the medical care facility websites.
This law can greatly impact outcomes for people with disability. A person with a disability should be able to have a designated support person within medical care facilities because the designated support person knows the person with a disability and can help the nurses and doctors with the care. Persons with disabilities should be able to have the proper support and assistance in medical care facilities, and a designated support person will be able to help with that.