Kansas Senate passes pair of public health bills tied to political fury about COVID-19

Bills limit power of public health officials, guarantee in-person visits in hospitals

Sen. Beverly Gossage, R-Eudora, led debate on behalf of two bills approved by the Kansas Senate that would reduce the influence of state and county health officers in health emergencies and would guarantee rights of patients in a hospital’s care. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansas Senate brushed aside opposition Thursday to a pair of public health bills linked to the COVID-19 pandemic that would affirm the right of patients to direct their health care at medical facilities and would eliminate the state health secretary’s authority to issue directives amid outbreaks of infectious disease.

The bills approved by the Senate built upon three years of statutory changes triggered by the international spread of a virus that contributed to the death of 10,200 people in Kansas.

Sen. Beverly Gossage, a Eudora Republican and chair of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, said Senate Bill 391 was important because it would place in the hands of 105 elected county commissions the power to respond to spread of contagious, deadly diseases.

She said directives issued in the past by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment secretary and some county public health officers were an overreach.

“Somewhere along the line we gave them authority to give orders,” she said. “We want elected officials to give orders. It basically says, ‘Stay in your lane.’ Don’t give orders.”

Sen. Cindy Holscher, an Overland Park Democrat, said politicians with residual distrust of local and state health professionals due to decisions made during COVID-19 were unwisely concentrating authority in the hands of county commissioners. She said COVID-19 had receded as a public health threat and Kansas had put in place medical and religious exemptions for individuals who objected to government health mandates.

“No other state has implemented this type of policy,” Holscher said. “This is an extreme bill that would be a very expensive, dangerous experiment to unleash on our population, especially our children.”

‘Health freedom’

Sen. Mark Steffen, a Reno County Republican who worked as an anesthesiologist in Kansas, has for years sought a way to sever the influence of the KDHE secretary and county health officers in response to public health emergencies. He said the Constitutional Right to Health Freedom Act would limit the agency secretary to making recommendations about contagious diseases and how to prevent dissemination of infectious disease.

Under the measure approved 23-17 and forwarded to the Kansas House, county health officials could make recommendations to the county commission, which would possess the ability to order quarantine, isolation or treatment of people in an attempt to control disease spread.

An amendment offered by Sen. Rick Wilborn, R-McPherson, changed the bill to narrow the influence of county commissioners to outbreaks of “highly infectious diseases.”

Sen. Chase Blasi, R-Wichita, won approval of an amendment striking from the bill provisions that would prohibit a public or private employer from firing a worker or ordering the employee to isolate due to that person’s vaccination status.

The bill wouldn’t allow a public school board to order more than 40 hours of remote learning for students during a disaster.

Springer’s bill

The Senate also was drawn to Senate Bill 352, which would honor the memory of people who were ill or died during the pandemic, but were forbidden by public health mandate or medical providers from having visits with family members or having a measure of influence over their care in a hospital.

The bill would articulate a series of patient rights, including a guarantee of access by visitors, the right to select a physician and the ability to control health care strategy.

The package would be named for Larned native John Springer, who died Dec. 2, 2021, at a medical center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was 59.

Peggy Springer, who was married to John Springer, said she was disappointed with Kansas government’s response to COVID-19. She urged passage of legislation to protect patients and their families from enduring the pain of knowing a loved one was isolated, confused and alone at a hospital. If the proposed Senate bill had been in place in Kansas, she said, her husband wouldn’t have been “treated like an animal” at an Oklahoma medical center.

Peggy Springer said her husband was criticized for requesting ivermectin, which she considered an essential and safe medication for humans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, hasn’t approved ivermectin for treatment of viral infections, including COVID-19.

Peggy Springer said her husband was given remdesivir, fentanyl and morphine without giving informed consent.

“I would have been allowed to be there to advocate for him with regard to treatment and care,” she said. “He would have been given the medications his family asked for without being mocked. We could have had the doctor removed who mocked him and told me, ‘Your husband is not a horse.’”

O’Shea’s amendment

Under the bill approved 26-13 and transferred to the Kansas House, medical care facilities would not be able to take action to prevent a patient from receiving in-person visits from immediate family members, domestic partners, significant others, a person granted durable power of attorney, an essential caregiver or a minister, priest and rabbi. If the patient was terminally ill or receiving end-of-life care, a person could receive visits from two people at a time.

For a patient under 18 years of age, the bill would allow a parent or guardian to accompany the minor at all times at a medical facility. The bill would mandate KDHE document complaints alleging violations of the statute. The bill would enable a person to file a lawsuit against a medical facility for alleged infraction of this law and a plaintiff would receive a minimum of $25,000 if able to prove the offense occurred.

Continue Reading

The post Kansas Senate passes pair of public health bills tied to political fury about COVID-19 appeared first on DailyClout.

0 comments on “Kansas Senate passes pair of public health bills tied to political fury about COVID-19Add yours →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *