George Burns

After a long week of hearing bills on the Senate floor, we’ve officially concluded our work on House bills. Of the approximately 320 House bills that made it through the committee process, we approved approaching 280 of them. Our main focus now shifts to completing the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, which will begin on July 1.

While there were many good bills passed out of both chambers, I want to share two bills with you that will be especially important to patients and long-term care residents in the event we have another health emergency in the state.

House Bill 2687 creates the No Patient Left Alone Act, which ensures hospital patients may always have a designated visitor, even if a health emergency has been declared. Many Oklahomans were forced to receive treatment in a hospital setting without having a family member or advocate present. While the measure does grant access, it’s important to remember the hospital still will have rules, like no visitors in the operating room or other restricted area. Visitors will also have to comply with hospital rules, including wearing personal protective equipment, if applicable. The bottom line is we want to make sure that no one in our state will have to suffer or die alone.

We also approved House Bill 2566, which would require every long-term facility in the state to provide reasonable access to a resident through family or compassionate caregivers. Strict no-visitor policies were instituted in nursing homes and long-term living facilities across the state, causing many families to go for months on end without seeing their loved ones. The mental, emotional and physical toll this has taken on our elderly population over the past year has been astounding.

Visitation and access to residents would still be subject to reasonable clinical and safety measures, but the most visitation could be suspended is for 72 hours, based on the State Department of Health’s emergency plan.

Both of these measures passed the Senate and House overwhelmingly, and I look forward to seeing them both signed into law.

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In other news, updated redistricting maps were released this week, and there will be some changes made to Senate District 5 when the new legislative boundaries go into effect in 2022. These maps will have to be approved by both the House and Senate before they are official, so slight changes still could be made. I’ll keep you updated on this process. In the meantime, you can view the current and updated district maps at www.oksenate.gov/redistricting.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you. If you have any questions about legislation, or need assistance with an issue, please contact me by e-mail at George.Burns@oksenate.gov or by telephone at (405) 521-5614.

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Burns is the District 5 state senator, whose district covers portions of LeFlore County as well as McCurtain and Pushmataha counties.

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