By Bob Katzen
The Senate approved and sent to the House a bill that would require all hospitals to meet minimum criteria and standards that ensure safe, timely and accessible patient access to hospital emergency departments and rooms. The regulations which would be crafted by the Department of Public Health would include legible indoor and outdoor signage and lighting including wayfinding signage that is designed to help a person find their way to the emergency room without lengthy explanations or complicated maps; monitoring of all emergency
department access points; requiring proper security monitoring of any prominent hospital door or entrance that is locked at night and through which a patient might try to enter; and any other safety feature that the department deems necessary to ensure daytime or nighttime entry to an emergency room or department.
“When people are in need of emergency services, every minute counts and the dim lights and unclear signage took minutes from Laura that cost her life,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville). “We simply do not want this to happen to anyone again, and we believe this legislation is one step toward saving lives with clear signage, lighting, wayfinding and better security monitoring of emergency department entrances.”
The measure is called “Laura’s Law,” in memory of Laura Levis, a 34-year-old woman who on September 16, 2016 went to CHA Somerville Hospital while suffering an asthma attack. Peter DeMarco, Levis’ husband has led the campaign for passage of the legislation. He is a journalist who wrote about Laura’s death almost two years ago for the “Boston Globe” in a story called “Losing Laura.” According to DeMarco’s story, “Laura chose a locked door to try to access the emergency room because the correct door was not properly marked. Though Laura was on surveillance video, the hospital security desk was left unattended all night, so no one saw her. When a nurse from the emergency department eventually looked out the door for Laura, she did not see her, as the spot where Laura collapsed was in near darkness.”
Laura had called 911 but by the time first responders found her, she had collapsed in cardiac arrest and died a few days later on September 22.
“I don’t think there’s any way anyone can question the need for Laura’s Law after learning about all the safety failures that lead to Laura’s death,” said DeMarco following the Senate vote last week. “But with the uncertainty of the pandemic there was a real chance all the efforts we’ve put into getting this bill this far would have been for nothing. Happy, of course, is not the right word for me on this day. But I am grateful that the Senate has passed this bill, and I very much hope the House of Representatives doesn’t take too much more time to do the same.”
“She was so full of energy and joy, and always could make me smile with just a little twist of her nose or a raised eyebrow,” continued DeMarco. “She was passionately devoted to her friends and family, including our six nephews and nieces. Her mom, Georgia, who passed away from cancer in 2018 following Laura’s death, was her best friend. They laughed together about something every single time they talked. She was so strong—she pumped iron at Harvard’s gym just about every lunch hour and competed in a few powerlifting competitions—and just so healthy, caring about diet and exercise and macronutrients and meditation and you name it. All this in spite of having asthma.”
DeMarco has started a foundation in Laura’s name to fund personal gym training sessions for underprivileged and abused women. You can find out more information and donate at http://www.lift4laura.org