Over the past several weeks, Governor Tom Wolf’s administration has taken actions to remove regulatory barriers in order to supplement the health care provider workforce and ensure the availability of sufficient personnel to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to ensure adequate legal protection for health care practitioners, on May 6, 2020, Governor Wolf signed an executive order granting civil immunity to individual health care practitioners for good faith actions taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order temporarily suspends certain regulatory statutes and regulations related to the Department of Health’s licensure and certification authority over health care facilities and designates certain classes of individuals as agents of the Commonwealth for purposes of immunity from civil liability arising from emergency and disaster service activities related to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order, which arises from mounting pressure from medical advocacy groups to grant civil immunity to the health care workforce, is effective immediately and will remain in effect throughout the duration of the disaster emergency.
Notably, the order accomplishes the following:
- Grants immunity to any individual who holds a license, certificate, registration or certification to practice health care in Pennsylvania and who is providing COVID-19 medical treatment or services during the disaster emergency response.
- Extends immunity to medical professionals in Pennsylvania who provide services in any health care facility as defined in the Health Care Facilities Act, as well as any nursing facility, personal care home, assisted living facility or any alternate care site, community-based testing site or non-congregate care facility used for the purpose of conducting emergency services activities or the provision of disaster services activities.
- Affirms immunity for any person, organization or authority permitting the use of real estate or other premises for emergency services without compensation in the event of death, injury, or loss or damage to the property of any person who is on the premises for the purpose of those emergency services.
- Suspends or removes several regulatory barriers that impede or prevent out-of-state, retired or other qualified practitioners from providing needed services.
The order is intended to provide protection to the individual practitioners serving on the front lines of the disaster response, and therefore generally does not extend immunity to certain hospitals and health care facilities. Additionally, the order does not afford blanket immunity to health care practitioners, but rather protection that is targeted, narrow and temporary. Immunity is reserved solely for those practicing good judgment under challenging circumstances, and does not extend to acts or omissions that constitute a crime, gross negligence, or fraud, malice, or other willful misconduct.
If you would like assistance in determining whether the civil immunity granted under Governor Wolf’s order extends to you and/or asserting the protections offered thereunder, our attorney team is here to help. Please contact us using the form below, or give us a call at 610-797-9000. We wish you well during these extraordinary times.