The Connecticut Department of Public Health has modified its COVID-19 policy on prohibiting visitors to hospitals to allow exceptions for visits to patients with disabilities.
The policy shift followed a complaint to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights by a coalition of nonprofits led by Disabilities Rights Connecticut.
The complaint accused the state of creating a guidance that ignored the special communications needs of people with disabilities, which would result in denying them equal access to medical treatment.
The complaint also claimed the lack of visitation rights deprived some patients with disabilities of the “right to make informed decisions and provide informed consent,” while others were subjected to an “unnecessary use of physical and chemical restraints” during their hospitalization.
In an interview with The New York Times, Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights, criticized the no-visitor guidance in relation to people with disabilities.
“People should not be left to fend for themselves when they can be reasonably accommodated,” he said. “The safety of patients with disabilities shouldn’t be pitted as if it’s a zero-sum game against the safety of others. Both can be protected.”
Deidre S. Gifford, acting commissioner of the Department of Public Health, announced the policy change will go into effect on June 15.
In making the change, she acknowledged that current restrictions “prevent family members, personal care assistants or similar disability service providers from accompanying a patient with disabilities through his or her stay at the facility, causing such patient with disabilities to experience barriers to obtaining the care they require as well as inconvenience and distress.”