Caretakers of those with disabilities say they’re not being allowed into hospitals with them

Disability advocacy groups are calling on the governor to issue an executive order to enforce their right to stay with their loved one when hospitalized despite Covid restrictions.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Support persons for those with disabilities say they’ve been denied entry into hospitals when their loved one is hospitalized, due to Covid-19 restrictions, despite a Department of Health policy allowing them to be there.

As soon as the pandemic began last spring and hospitals stopped allowing visitors, Morna Murray of Disability Rights Rhode Island says advocates asked the RI Department of Health to institute a policy allowing support persons for those with disabilities to be allowed inside the hospital with them.

“Their need for essential support remains unchanged whether there’s a pandemic or not,” said Murray.

A policy allowing this exception was approved in May.

However, Murray says she’s now heard from several families that they have been turned away because of Covid-19 restrictions, leaving their loved one alone in the hospital.

“This is not a visitation issue, it’s an access to care issue,” said Murray.

Murray explained it’s an issue of the patient’s civil rights being violated, because much of the time they need their support person to communicate and advocate for them.

Jodi Kelsey of Barrington went through this with her daughter Rebecca.

Rebecca, who just turned 40, has cerebral palsy, and is non-verbal and non-ambulatory. Her mother  says she was extremely upset when she wasn’t allowed into the hospital with her in October.

“They kept saying to me, ‘There’s no visiting hours.’ But they don’t understand I’m not a visitor,” said Kelsey.

Kelsey says she was finally allowed in for 30 minutes one day, and found that Rebecca’s teeth needed cleaning, she was having some issues with her skin, and other things were wrong that she knew she could have helped her with had she been allowed to accompany her.

“Leaving somebody who is so vulnerable alone and you really don’t know what’s going, and she can never tell me.” said Kelsey. “If somebody did anything to her or hurt her, or didn’t do anything for her, I wouldn’t know!”

Disability Rights Rhode island is asking for an executive order from the governor to ensure there’s enforcement of this policy.

We reached out to the governor’s office for comment but have not heard back.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Rhode Island
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