Arizona State Representative Quang Nguyen’s (R-Prescott) “Glenn Martin Act,” which requires hospitals to allow daily in-person visitation, became law with Governor Doug Ducey’s (R) signature recently.

“Some of the restrictive visitation policies put in place by facilities during the pandemic had consequences far beyond that of protecting patient health,” Nguyen said in a statement. “Patients were separated from their families, clergy, and others for long periods. That can be detrimental to a patient’s mental and physical health and is especially devastating in an end-of-life situation.”

House Bill (HB) 2633 states that hospitals shall develop visitation policies that allow patients to have daily, in-person visitation from family members, including spouses, parents, and children. These policies must also ensure that the patient and visitor can have physical contact, especially during an end-of-life visitation. However, a physician can still deny visitation if the visitor does not meet health and safety standards or if the visit may harm the patient.

Anyone denied visitation could request a meeting with the physician for an explanation within 24 hours of the decision. If the visitor’s request is still denied after the meeting, the visitor can file a complaint.

The Glenn Martin Act, is named after a friend of Nguyen from Prescott who died in 2021 without being allowed visitation in the hospital.

In the wake of harsh criticism by mental health professionals and the community at large, many hospitals in Arizona have begun updating visitation policies to be less restrictive. Banner Health allows for two visitors at a time as of May. Arizona General Hospital has allowed one visitor a day since August, while Honor Health allows visitors at any time.

HB 2633 is not Nguyen’s first hospital visitation-related bill. HB 2575, which Ducey signed into law in May, details that a hospital’s visitation policies must allow clergy to visit patients for religious purposes, even during a pandemic and especially during an end-of-life situation.

During HB 2633’s third reading in the Arizona House, House Speaker Russell Bowers (R-AZ-25) argued in favor of this bill by telling a personal story in which his daughter, Kacey Bowers, was in and out of the hospital. During her final stay, Bowers said he could not visit her because of COVID-19 restrictions until the day before she slipped into a coma when Bowers had an hour to see her before she passed.

“The ability of a patient to thrive at all is greatly amplified by their ability to see and feel and touch and talk with their human relatives,” said Bowers.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Quang Nguyen” by Arizona State Legislature. Background Photo “Piper Surgery Center” by Al_HikesAZ. CC BY-NC 2.0.