COVID-19 and Healthcare Provider Immunity

    The first known death in the US from COVID-19 occurred in February. Less than 6 months later, we’ve lost over 137,000. We hear about this crisis daily, yet it is still not clear how much legal protection or legal accountability workers should have for the healthcare they are providing.

    How is this playing out nationally? Political opinion seems to favor healthcare workers. 33 states offer some form of immunity for care providers during this pandemic. States may issue executive orders, pass laws, or both. Some, like Wisconsin, expanded the definition of who qualifies as a healthcare provider. Others, like Georgia, extended protections to long-term care facilities. Virginia was 1 of 5 states to grant immunity for times when care must be restricted based on limited resources.

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    Not all states have made such broad changes. For example, Arkansas gives immunity to a limited class of workers. Pennsylvania only allows immunity under specific circumstances, such as disaster recovery. Kansas requires immunity be for caring for patients “reasonably suspected or confirmed to have coronavirus.”

    And patient protections still exist. 16 states actively require healthcare providers to act in “good faith” regarding their care before any immunity can be applied. Also, no state has increased immunity for providers when they knowingly do something to risk someone’s health or engage in gross negligence.

    So where does Washington state stand? We have not yet granted any special immunity to healthcare providers during this pandemic. Instead, Washington currently functions under current medical malpractice laws. Providers are held to the existing medical standards of care, that is, the degree of care, skill, and learning of a reasonably prudent health care provider in the state of Washington.

    Of course, you do not need to have COVID to be impacted by what is happening here. Resource scarcity is already impacting the care of non-COVID patients. Hospitals are cutting non-urgent surgeries again, and as ICU beds fill up, there is less room for people without COVID when they need help. Healthcare workers may also need to redirect medical supplies away from those deemed less urgent.

    But malpractice does not just occur in hospitals. COVID cases are again rising in nursing homes across the country. Just prior to the pandemic, the federal government moved to cut the size of fines against nursing homes that violate health and safety rules. It only reversed this trend last month. No one wants a repeat of the neglect of the elderly we first saw as the pandemic spread.

    As our government struggles with the questions around healthcare provider immunity, it is good to know that you have someone on your side. Your Bellevue Injury Lawyer can sort through changing laws and find the best way to get the protection you or your loved one may need.

    We at R Martin Law Group understand that healthcare providers are working hard, often putting their own lives at risk. Yet health care providers and health care companies are still held to standards in order to protect us all from negligence. R Martin Law Group will hold healthcare providers and healthcare companies responsible for any “negligence, recklessness, or willful malfeasance” committed by their caregivers, whether you have COVID or not.

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