A long awaited bill to rewrite the state law governing conservatorships has undergone a last minute amendment at the request of hospitals thus delaying a final House vote on the measure and forcing another Senate vote.
The amendment, which triggered a brief debate and a motion to delay further action came Wednesday as the General Assembly moved toward a planned early adjournment.
The amendment would create a new and special path for hospitals to move patients unable to make decisions for themselves into lower cost settings such as nursing homes or rehabilitation facilities.
Under the amendment, a hospital could petition the court directly for authorization to transfer a patient unable to act for him or herself to a lower level of care without going through notice and waiting periods.
Rep. Andrew Farmer, a sponsor of the original legislation, said the change provides “another avenue for hospitals to move someone out of their bed. This is a compomise.” He said he had been approached by two hospitals, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center seeking the change.
Under the version of the bill approved earlier by the state Senate, hospitals would have had to comply with newly established procedures for emergency conservatorships, which require a notice within 48 hours to the person being conserved and a hearing within 5 days.
In brief debate after adoption of the amendment, several Republican members questioned why the amendment was being offered at the last minute and why it did not go through the Civil Justice Committee which approved an earlier version of the bill.
Allan F. Ramsaur of the Tennessee Bar Association, which originally proposed a rewrite of the state conservatorship law, said he expected the Senate to go along with the amendment.
“We worked with the hospitals to find a third way of preserving rights but not requiring them to keep someone in the expensive hospital bed,” Ramsaur said in an email response to questions.
Under the amendment a hospital would petition the court for the appointment on an expedited basis of a special limited fiduciary with the authority to have the patient discharged or transferred.
“The proposed amendment allows someone to be moved to an appropriate level of care without impacting or invoking the emergency provisions component of the act,” said John Howser, assistant vice chancellor for Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “(It) is aimed as a last resort option for caregivers to be included as decision-makers for patients with no families or with families who cannot or will not be involved.”
The proposed rewrite of the conservatorship law came following statewide hearings by the bar association at which several former wards charged that their rights and property were taken away without notice or just cause.
Lawmakers Amend Conservatorship Law After Concern From Hospitals