For too many months, our members have been wasting away in nursing homes without pastoral care, and we have been told repeatedly that the Nursing Homes are just following HHS guidelines.
It turns out this was a lie. I wish I had heard about this months ago! Nursing Homes, Hospitals, etc. are required BY LAW to provide clergy access to patients. And now I have the documents from HHS to prove it!
If you are also having trouble getting in to see your members, try these. In this one (https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-13-hospitals-cahs-revised.pdf) , the key part is on p. 8, point “c”:
“Facilities must ensure patients have adequate and lawful access to chaplains or clergy…” Note – this isn’t optional. Other parts say “should”. This says “Must”, and then notes the laws which require it.
In the second document (https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-39-nh-revised.pdf), p. 5 is key, under “Compassionate Care situations.” This is not only end-of-life (and says so explicitly). If you can’t get access, forwarding these documents, or using some of the key phrases may help.
I wish we had these in hand in March and September of last year when they were published! How much suffering could have been alleviated. I pray that in the future, the IC and LCMS office in Washington DC will keep tabs on how pastors can provide care to our most vulnerable members. It seems to me that this is the real work of the church. If we aren’t doing that, then the rest of our work is an banging drum or clanging cymbal, and we have gained nothing.
For now, I am just happy that I have a weapon to push back against the constant refrain of “We have to follow HHS guidelines.”
And if the above doesn’t work, there’s always the big gun. This article: (https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/12/16/ocr-facilitates-safe-clergy-access-for-patients-at-mt-sinai-hospital-during-covid-19.html) I’m guessing a quick email with this and mention of “Contacting the HHS Office of Civil Rights” will work better than a magic wand at opening once closed doors.
It’s Time to get back to work.