By Bob Katzen

Governor Baker signed into law 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.

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.

“If people have lost a little of their faith in democracy, I think they should look to moments like these where the system does work, where the right thing does happen,” said DeMarco. “I’m grateful that our Legislature and Gov. Baker are passing a bill that will one day save someone’s life, or numerous lives. There’s probably no greater way to honor Laura’s life than that. When you rush to a hospital in the midst of a crisis the last thing you need to worry about is whether you’ll be able to find the emergency department in time. The changes that will come about because of Laura’s Law will eliminate that worry for us all.”

“In an emergency, every minute counts,” said Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville), the Senate sponsor of the bill. “The dim lights and unclear signage took minutes from Laura that cost her life. Laura’s husband, Peter DeMarco, has worked so hard to make sure that this will never happen again. This law will save lives.”

“I am so pleased that after years of work, ‘Laura’s Law’ became law today, and I was honored to join my constituent Peter Demarco and his family in attendance at the signing,” said Rep. Christine Barber (D-Somerville), the House sponsor of the measure. “This bill will save lives—Laura’s memory and Peter’s advocacy will ensure that no one in an emergency struggles to access the care that they need. This bill was a team effort and I’m proud that it is now law.”

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