By Del. Les R. Adams
16th House District
In my update last week, I briefly touched on the urgent calls from those of us in the House Republicans Caucus for Virginia’s government to do what is necessary to improve the execution of an effective COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan, especially for those most at risk. As a representative of our community, I recognize the increasing demand from many constituents that has been frustrated, not only by insufficient executive planning, but product scarcity and logistical limitations.
As some of you know, my office has been in frequent communication with the Department of Health over the past few weeks, requesting that more doses of the vaccine be sent to our region. During this process, reliable information about the specifics of the situation during this roll-out has frequently changed, but you should know that I will continue to advocate, with our local officials, to have vaccines delivered to us as quickly as possible.
In addition, I am glad to report that the House of Delegates has recently passed emergency legislation from the Senate to require the Department of Health to establish a process whereby a wide array of entities may be registered as approved sites for the administration of vaccines. In addition to various health care facilities, these may also include educational and corporate institutions. The bill also requires implementation of a process to enlist qualified volunteers to administer the vaccine. The legislation was supported by both Republicans and Democrats, passing unanimously in both houses.
Another bill that has passed unanimously in the House is one that I sponsored, introduced weeks ago as a direct response to the ongoing pandemic and the restrictions imposed by health care facilities and nursing homes on patient visits from family and friends. House Bill 2154, if also passed by the Senate and ultimately signed by the governor, will grant anyone receiving inpatient services in hospitals, nursing homes, and certified nursing facilities the right to access and use what are known as “intelligent personal assistants” to facilitate communication with their loved ones during those times of patient care.
Personal assistant technology, including “digital assistants” or “virtual assistants,” such as an Amazon Echo and the like, have become useful tools for many people trying to maintain contact with those, usually elderly individuals, who are receiving care but are denied visits due to COVID-19 related restrictions. My legislation will direct the Board of Health to develop and implement policies to ensure this patient right, policies that are currently lacking or inconsistent among providers. Indeed, I was motivated to file this bill following the near denial of such family access to a constituent during her final hours of life.
In advancing this legislation, I gained the active support of some Republicans, but also several Democrats, who serve on the reporting committee and joined my bill as co-patrons, thereby increasing its likelihood of success. This effort is a happy example of how bipartisan cooperation can be gracefully achieved to improve the quality of life for the people we collectively serve. Such achievements will continue to be a sincere objective of my ongoing work on behalf of everyone who lives in the district I am privileged to represent.