Bills concerning speech-language pathologists’ licenses and health facility visitation policies heard in House Health Policy Committee

Bills concerning speech-language pathologists’ licenses and visitation in health care facilities were heard in a recent meeting of the Michigan House Health Policy Committee.

 

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Senate Bill 811, sponsored by Sen. Curtis VanderWall (R – Ludington), seeks to help more speech-language pathologists get licensed in the state. Speech-language pathologist post-graduates are currently required to complete 1,000 hours of supervised clinical work in order to obtain their full license and practice independently. These post-graduates need to hold a temporary license to complete this clinical experience. 

Current statute has a 12 month validity period for this temporary license, and the bill would extend this period to 24 months, as well as allow for a renewal option.

“With everything that we’ve been through in the past couple of years, from remote learning, unplanned extended medical situations, and reductions in workplace employment, it has become quite difficult for those post-graduates to be able to get those hours they need in that 12 month time,” a spokesperson for VanderWall said at the meeting. “This bill will incorporate the flexibility of our post-graduates and their need to finish their clinical hours here in Michigan so that they can stay here in Michigan.”

Kelli Pierce, a speech-language pathologist and VP of Advocacy at the Michigan Speech Language Hearing Association, testified in support of the bill. She said extending the time period that post-graduates have to obtain their 1,000 hours of supervised clinical work will encourage them to stay and practice in Michigan.

“The 12 month non-renewable license is untenable for a lot of these graduates … As mentioned already today, there is a significant workforce shortage across all areas of health care, and education and speech-language pathology is included in that,” she said. “In 2021, we surveyed current graduate students across the universities in the state, asking what their plans were for when they graduated. 64% had plans to stay in Michigan, 26% were undecided, and only 10% planned to move. So our graduate students want to stay here and they want to join the workforce.”

Another bill discussed during the committee meeting aims to ensure personal medical representatives are allowed to visit patients with cognitive impairments in health care facilities. SB 450, sponsored by Sen. Jim Stamas (R – Midland), would prohibit an emergency order issued during an epidemic from banning visits to a patient or resident of certain health care facilities for more than 30 days. The bill would also permit a personal medical representative to be allowed in a health care facility with a patient or resident who has a cognitive impairment while they make health care related decisions if an emergency medical order has lasted longer than 30 days.

The bill states that MDHHS, hospitals, and other health care facilities can establish guidelines and procedures for these visitations, as well as limit the number of patient representatives at one time.

“Over the past 2 and a half years, we have had situations across the state play out with family members in hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers having non-COVID and COVID-related procedures done with limited in-person access for their family members or their representatives,” a spokesperson for Sen. Stamas said at the meeting. “We all have experienced things over the past 2.5 years that we have never anticipated before. This legislation will provide peace of mind for families and loved ones knowing that they have this support system when and if it is needed.”

Richie Farran, VP of Government Services at the Health Care Association of Michigan, testified in support of the bill. 

“Long-term care facilities have endured the most difficult years the profession has ever experienced,” he said. “The pandemic has been uniquely challenging for long-term care facility residents and their families. We thank Sen. Stamas for his commitment to ensuring the well-being of residents. From our perspective, I think it’s important to note that the bill does allow for facilities to implement protocols such as testing [and] screening. We appreciate the approach of balancing visitation with the safety of residents.”

As this was an initial hearing, no votes were held on either of the bills.