Sponsored by Senators Kean, Sweeney, Smith and O’Scanlon
Bipartisan legislation protecting health care professionals treating patients during the COVID-19 state of emergency from civil and criminal malpractice claims was approved today during the Senate’s first remote session.
Sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Bob Smith and Senator Declan O’Scanlon, the bill (S-2333) would grant protections from claims alleging injury or death against a health care worker providing medical services in support of the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Sen. Kean and Sen. O’Scanlon sponsor legislation to strengthen the pool of medical personnel available to treat coronavirus patients in the state. The bipartisan bill was advanced by the Senate Monday. (©iStock)
“Our healthcare facilities and the dedicated doctors and nurses who provide critical care to patients have stepped up to respond to this emergent public health crisis, often without the resources they need to do their jobs effectively,” said Senator Kean (R-21). “Many of the challenges they face, including shortages of life-saving ventilators, are not the result of negligence but of a massive surge in need and limited national supply. When our region has been hit as hard by the coronavirus as anywhere in the world, we must recognize that our healthcare facilities, doctors, and nurses are doing the best they can with what they have. They deserve the assurance that they will not be punished for trying to save lives under these unbelievably difficult circumstances.”
The civil immunity under the bill would include any act or omission undertaken in good faith by the health care professional or health care facility to treat coronavirus patients and contain the spread of the disease, including engaging in telemedicine or telehealth and treating patients outside the normal scope of practice.
“The novel coronavirus crisis is causing enormous challenges to health care workers and the medical system,” said Senator Sweeney. “Our health care workers are real heroes who are putting their safety at risk to save lives and protect the public, but they need help and support to take on what is an unprecedented health crisis. This bill will increase the immediate availability of qualified medical professionals to treat Covid-19 patients and provide temporary legal protections that are directly and expressly related to the treatment of Covid-19 patients so these workers can help provide vital medical services during this health emergency.”
S-2333 would also grant temporary reinstatement of emergency medical service personnel with recently expired certification to contribute in the fight against COVID-19. In addition, it would award temporary reciprocity to paramedics licensed in another state.
“Adequate staffing is an ongoing concern in our hospitals and emergency vehicles,” said Senator O’Scanlon (R-13). “This bill can bring hundreds of qualified reinforcements to the coronavirus front line where they will provide essential assistance to both patients and hospital staff. This crisis demands all hands on deck, and many of these selfless, well-trained individuals are ready, willing and able to join the cause.”
Health care facilities and health care professionals would be shielded from civil and criminal liability under the bill in connection with the allocation of mechanical ventilators or other medical resources provided the facility adheres to a scarce critical resource allocation policy that incorporates core principles identified by the Commissioner of Health.
“We are calling on all those, who have served our health care system in the past, to come out of retirement to help us now during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “The Governor has already cleared people of civil liability if something occurs, but codifying it in law will enable our volunteers to work without fear of repercussions and, hopefully, encourage more people to join the fight in our front-line hospitals.”
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