Bill named for Washington man who died at Vidant Medical tells NC hospitals to let in clergy during emergency

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(AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina hospitals would be required to let a pastor or other clergy member visit a patient even during a declared emergency like a pandemic under legislation that received final General Assembly approval on Wednesday.

The bill, which got unanimous Senate approval almost four months after a House vote, would require the minister to comply with health screenings and other infection controls that don’t interfere with religious beliefs. Hospitals could deny access to clergy members who didn’t pass the screening.

The measure, which now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk, was named for Jeff Rieg of Washington, North Carolina, who died at Vidant Medical Center in 2020. Rieg had been struck by a car, but COVID-19 visitation restrictions had prevented his family and pastors from seeing him.

The hospital ultimately allowed the family to visit Rieg before he died but the pastor was not allowed. family members said. The bill surfaced after other families told a legislator about similar obstacles.

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