Advocacy Correspondence: Joint Letter to Governor Wolf and Members of the General Assembly
May 20, 2020
Dear Governor Wolf and Members of the General Assembly:
On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we write to request that the Commonwealth take additional steps to provide liability protections to health care providers who are making sacrifices and exposing themselves every day to personal risks to treat and protect all Pennsylvanians. While we are appreciative of the recent Executive Order that provides civil immunity for individual health care practitioners within a facility against malpractice actions stemming from care provided to COVID-19 patients during the disaster emergency response, we believe that further executive or legislative action is necessary to protect facilities and other providers in this challenging environment.
As you know, the health care community is facing difficult circumstances and must fully direct their attention to treating patients and bringing this health care crisis under control rather than focusing on lawsuit mitigation. Pandemics require rapid decision-making by providers and appropriate liability protections should be established to foster the best from our health care system. During this time, health care facilities, agencies, small and private practices, and other providers—not just practitioners—should not have to worry about the threat of frivolous lawsuits as they care for patients in communities throughout Pennsylvania.
Many other states, most notably New York and New Jersey, were leaders in enacting legislation to support their health care facilities and professionals providing life-saving treatment to those diagnosed with COVID-19. They have done this in response to the lack of protections provided at the federal level though the CARES Act and PREP Act, which do not cover the day-to-day interactions and decisions of practitioners and facilities in dealing with COVID-19.
The actions to protect both providers and practitioners acknowledge that less-than-ideal clinical circumstances, including resource or staffing shortages, may occur as health care providers battle the COVID-19 pandemic. To be effective, immunity protections must protect all licensed facilities and service providers, as well as administrators and other non-clinical leadership, beginning the first day of the disaster declaration. It is also important to note that the failure to extend liability protections to all licensed facilities and providers will have the additional negative effect of increasing liability insurance costs by millions of dollars, as insurance coverage held by practitioners will no longer be available to help satisfy malpractice judgments.
In addition, we urge you to extend liability protections to circumstances where care was deferred as a result of state orders to close services. Health care providers should not be subject to lawsuits arising out of delayed care due to compliance with extraordinary state mandates.
We recognize that this request for liability protection must be balanced against the rights of individuals. In this context, willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct or a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual should not be protected.
Our members across the state have expressed their thoughtful and deep concerns that our health care system’s ability to care for patients will be negatively impacted by fears of liability. Without extended immunity protections, the entire health care community remains exposed to a barrage of frivolous lawsuits for years to come impacting health care in every corner of the Commonwealth.
As the nation thanks our health care community, Pennsylvania’s thank you should include the legal protections they deserve.
American College of Physicians
Ambulance Association of Pennsylvania
Healthcare Council of Western Pennsylvania
National Association of Social Workers
Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians
Pennsylvania Association for Behavioral Healthcare
Pennsylvania Association of Certified Nurse Midwives
Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers
Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers Society
Pennsylvania Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics
Pennsylvania Chiropractic Association
Pennsylvania Coalition for Oral Health
Pennsylvania College of Emergency Physicians
Pennsylvania Health Care Association
Pennsylvania Dental Association
Association Pennsylvania Medical Society
Pennsylvania Optometric Association
Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association
Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society
Pennsylvania Psychological Association
Pennsylvania Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants
Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association
Safety-Net Association of Pennsylvania
The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania
Urban Health Care Coalition
Topics: State Advocacy
Revision Date: 5/20/2020
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