BOSTON (State House News Service) — Every hospital emergency room in Massachusetts would be required to improve signage, lighting and monitoring to ensure all patients in need can access care, under a bill lawmakers approved in the overnight end-of-session frenzy.
The House and Senate finished work early Wednesday morning on patient safety legislation (S.2931) that authors said "will save lives" by instructing the Department of Public Health to impose statewide standards aimed at making emergency services easier to find for those in crisis.
The bill, referred to by supporters as "Laura's Law," was prompted by the 2016 death of Laura Beth Levis just steps away from a Somerville hospital's emergency room.
Levis attempted to enter CHA Somerville Hospital's emergency room during a severe asthma attack in the early-morning hours, but the signage and lighting were unclear and she tried to enter a locked door before collapsing outside the building, where she soon died.
Her widower, Peter DeMarco, has been pressing the Legislature to act to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
"In an emergency, every minute counts," Sen. Patricia Jehlen, a Somerville Democrat, said in a statement after the bill's passage. "The dim lights and unclear signage took minutes from Laura that cost her life."
DeMarco said passage of the bill, which will need Gov. Charlie Baker's signature to become law, ensures that Levis's death "will also have incredible meaning."
"A brighter sign, a guard at the security desk, a clearly marked door -- any one of these things could make a huge difference to someone who's having a heart attack or a stroke, or an asthma attack, or someone who's overdosed on drugs and rushes to a hospital," DeMarco said in a statement. "I hope I never have to hear of someone ever again dying steps from an emergency-room door. And that will all be because of Laura."
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service