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Hospitals must allow Marylanders with disabilities to have caregivers accompany them, state officials say

Caregivers will be able to accompany Marylanders with disabilities during hospital visits, under a directive state health officials issued this week.

To help contain the spread of the new coronavirus, medical facilities have barred visitors from accompanying patients. But advocates say accommodations are necessary for some people with limited mobility or developmental disabilities.

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The secretaries of the state departments of health and disabilities are requiring medical systems put in place provisions by May 22 for the accommodations. Support aides include people who are legally authorized to make decisions for a person with disabilities, including family members, personal care assistants or disability service providers.

Caregivers will be screened when they arrive and periodically during their stay. They must also wear personal protective gear. Any support aides with COVID-19 symptoms will not be allowed to stay.

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David Greenberg, president of the League for People with Disabilities, said many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities require supports to help them navigate through life.

“Cutting off this support during a stressful time of a hospitalization … is outright cruel,” Greenberg said. “Thank you to the governor for understanding the needs of Marylanders with disabilities and addressing this important issue.”

Aides must be allowed to visit or stay with the patient. If a person with a disability does not have a caregiver at their bedside, hospitals must have policies about communication accommodations that are clear to the patient, preferably before they arrive.

The provisions must also allow the person with a disability to propose other reasonable accommodations that comply with the hospital’s infection control policies.

Such allowances are required by federal regulations and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.

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