Baker to sign bill on emergency room access
'Laura’s Law' imposes signage, lighting requirements
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER is planning a private ceremony on Friday to sign Laura’s Law, a bill requiring hospitals to make their emergency rooms more easily accessible, with signage and lighting.
Laura’s Law was inspired by the death of Laura Beth Levis. Levis was 34 when she died of an asthma attack just steps from the Somerville Hospital emergency room door in 2016.
Her husband, Peter DeMarco, wrote a lengthy story for the Boston Globe, called “Losing Laura,” that revealed numerous failings by the hospital and the state’s 911 system.
“I think it’s incredible that Laura’s death will end up saving other people’s lives,” DeMarco said in an interview Wednesday. “The whole purpose of this bill was to make sure that whenever anyone goes to a hospital emergency room, the last thing they have to worry about is ‘can I find it, will I be able to get inside.’”
Because of COVID-19, the State House ceremony will include fewer than 10 people. It is expected to be attended by Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, DeMarco, and the bill’s lead sponsors Rep. Christine Barber and Sen. Pat Jehlen, both Somerville Democrats.
According to DeMarco’s Boston Globe story, Levis made it to the hospital around 4 a.m. There was no clear signage at the hospital instructing patients which door to go to, so she went to the wrong one, which was locked. She did not have the strength to make it to the other door. She called 911, but the operator was unable to get an exact GPS coordinate from her cell phone. Hospital staff did not do a thorough search when they were alerted to the call. It took 15 minutes for first responders to find her, and by that point it was too late. She died outside the hospital, unable to get in.
Laura’s Law will require the Department of Public Health to create state standards for hospital emergency departments regarding signage, lighting, and security monitoring of doors.
The regulations will be developed by a working group and due 180 days after the end of the COVID-19 emergency. They will go into effect not more than a year after the end of the state of emergency.
DeMarco said he hopes some hospitals will make simple changes sooner – such as installing an intercom or panic button outside any locked hospital door.DeMarco was unable to sue the hospital because of a cap on medical malpractice awards that applies to a public hospital, which meant he could have spent more money filing a suit than he could get in damages. But after the Globe story was published, DeMarco said Cambridge Health Alliance, the parent company of Somerville Hospital, apologized and pledged to correct safety-related deficiencies and educate other hospitals about how to make their buildings safer. Cambridge Health Alliance supported the passage of Laura’s Law.
In other legislative news, Baker on Wednesday re-filed a bill that did not make it through the Legislature last session that would provide relief to employers from having to pay hefty scheduled increases in their unemployment insurance rates. Without a change in law, the costs to employers paying into the unemployment insurance system are expected to rise by 60 percent this year. Baker’s bill would save employers $1.3 billion over two years by limiting the size of the increase and borrowing money to keep the unemployment insurance trust fund solvent.