A bill that requires hospitals to have emergency access to locked bathrooms will become law after unanimously passing through the Senate on March 25.
House Bill 129, also known as Christina's Law, was named for Christina Atkins, a 14-year-old girl who died in 2011 after staff at Beebe Medical Center, now Beebe Healthcare, could not open the door to a restroom inside which she had collapsed. It took officials 10 minutes to open the door; she was transported to A.I. duPont Hospital for Children where she died two days later.
“It's unfortunate that something like this had to happen. This is kind of a common sense law,” said Rep. Harvey Kenton, R-Milford, who was the bill's primary sponsor.
Going forward, when hospitals are built or updated, this policy will no longer be a regulation; it will be law, Kenton said.
“We'll never know if it saves another life, but that's a good thing,” the representative said.
The bill tasks the Department of Health and Social Services with preventing future incidents.
Bonnie and Eddie Atkins, parents of Christina, approached Kenton about creating legislation shortly after her death, Kenton said. The situation struck a cord a with the man who has granddaughters Christina's age.
Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, also sponsored the bill and worked closely with Kenton in crafting the legislation.
“The passage of this law will ensure this type of accident doesn't happen again,” said Pettyjohn.
Beebe Healthcare President Jeffery Fried said he supports anything that helps improve the safety of patients and employees at the hospital's facilities.
Fried said since the inciden, the hospital has instituted new procedures for doors that lock and has also begun a total overhaul of the organization's safety policies in an effort to be recognized as a high reliability organization.
Kenton said the Atkins have moved to California, but they've been calling him about once a month to see if the legislation was making any progress. He said he's looking forward to telling them the good news.
When the governor signs this bill into law, Kenton said he was going to get a copy of it, frame it and send one to them so they can have one forever.
“I hope it can bring some closure,” he said.