Gov. Ivey to sign bill granting patients access to their clergy

Published 10:00 am Saturday, April 15, 2023

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Alabama House of Representatives introduced an amendment that makes clergy more accessible to patients at their request to the Hospital Visitation bill recently.

Governor Kay Ivey will likely sign the bill sometime this week. 

The original bill didn’t specify whether members of the clergy would also qualify to visit patients during a lockdown. Some healthcare facilities have clergymen on their staff, but many patients have a relationship with the clergy of their own congregation. 

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“Clergy are not considered essential providers of our caregivers, but we felt like they were just as important,” said State Representative Debbie Wood.

With this amendment, patients will be able to request a specific clergyman to visit them.

“I attend a church, and I have a relationship with the pastor,” Wood said. “And if I get into a situation where I have declining health, or just some uncertainties going on, I want to be able to call my pastor who I’m familiar with and have him to come and pray for me or minister to me.”

The Hospital Visitation Bill ensures that any patient in a healthcare facility run by the state has the right to appoint an essential caregiver. If the healthcare facility goes into lockdown, the caregiver has the right to visit the patient for a minimum of two hours a day. 

Under this bill, state healthcare facilities cannot require proof of vaccination, and patients can also change the caregiver they appoint each day.

“The bill allows the patient to even change the caregiver. So let’s say that you have a mother in the hospital, and you have two siblings. Your mother can change the caregiver every day,” Wood said. “So your siblings could rotate. That’s the beauty of the bill.”

The essential caregivers and clergy will have to adhere to healthcare centers’ guidelines, such as wearing PPE. 

The state Senate approved the bill in March. Once signed by the governor, the bill will go into effect immediately.

“It should go into effect right away which with us not being in the middle of a pandemic, you know, it’s not as needed but you never know what tomorrow can hold,” Wood said. “So we were trying to get passed as quickly as possible.”