DeSantis Signs ‘No Patient Left Alone Act’

By Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.
April 7, 2022 Updated: April 7, 2022

PUNTA GORDA, Fla.—Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 988—The No Patient Left Alone Act—on April 6, guaranteeing Floridians the “fundamental right” of in-person visits with family members and other loved ones in health care facilities—even during a crisis.

The patient visitation rights measure requires that in-person visits be allowed in long-term care facilities, hospices, and hospitals, with a stipulation that no health care facility can ask for proof of vaccine status. It also allows visitors to hug their loved ones—something that wasn’t permitted in the past two years.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many terminally ill patients weren’t able to be with their loved ones in end-of-life situations, something that the governor called “fundamentally wrong.”

“I think when you look back over the past two years, one of the most heartbreaking elements of this was shutting people out of being with their loved ones at really critical times in their lives,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Naples, Florida.

The Republican governor said he and his staff have worked “very hard” with hospitals to tell them that—even though they understand that hospital staff wanted to mitigate COVID-19—you “can’t just shut out all these human interactions for people who are in the hospital and have really difficult circumstances.”

Charlene Miranda was one of those patients. Nine months after the birth of her baby, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and was hospitalized “multiple times.” During one of her stays, her condition was described as “borderline critical.”

“I’ve always thought of myself as someone strong-willed—with a passion for life, zest, and a will to live. I can tell you being alone in the hospital without my husband almost made me lose that will to live,” Miranda told the crowd. “I never want that to happen to anyone again. You know you get one life, and it’s important to be able to share those moments—especially when you’re in need of having your loved one with you.”

Epoch Times Photo
Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis visits with a youngster being treated for cancer at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, shortly after her own cancer diagnosis. The visit inspired her to speak publicly about her battle, she said. (Photo courtesy of the Florida Governor’s Office)

Miranda’s personal account caused the governor to “tear up” as he recalled Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis’s own battle with breast cancer.

“I would go with her to her chemotherapy, and when she was in the hospital … I can tell you if I had not been there, it would have been more difficult for her,” he said of his wife. “I know that this was something that was really meaningful to her.”

The governor went on to say that “isolating people is not healthy.”

“Facilitating the connections that really make life worth living is something that is very important,” he said.

SB 988 reads as follows:

“In-person Visitation; Citing this act as the ‘No Patient Left Alone Act’; requiring certain providers to establish visitation policies and procedures within a specified time frame; authorizing the resident, client, or patient to designate an essential caregiver; requiring in-person visitation in certain circumstances; authorizing providers to suspend in-person visitation of specific visitors under certain circumstances, etc.”

Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Simone Marstiller said health care facilities are charged with developing visitation policies that “ensure that individuals can designate an essential caregiver” and that this caregiver is allowed to visit no matter what.”

Marstiller said health care facilities have 30 days in which to develop policies and put them on their websites.

“If those things are not done, they [health care facilities] are subject to being held in violation of the law,” she said. “We will stand guard to make sure your fundamental rights are protected.”

DeSantis said that COVID-19 is “never going to be eradicated from the earth.”

“Viruses circulate—it’s going to be an endemic virus,” he said. “So hopefully the clinical impacts are going to be less as we go forward.”

In attendance with the governor was Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, who said denying people access to contact with loved ones is a “dehumanizing measure.”

“So a crisis will never be a reason for us to treat other human beings as being less than human,” Ladapo said.

Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.