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Health care providers get civil immunity from legal liability for good-faith actions during pandemic

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Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order today that gives health care practitioners protection against liability for good-faith actions taken in response to the call to supplement the health care provider workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the course of the pandemic, the Wolf administration has used its authority under the disaster declaration to suspend a significant number of regulations and regulatory statutes to supplement the health care workforce, including facilitating the deployment of retirees and out-of-state health care professionals, expanding scope of practices and relaxing supervision requirements for numerous health care licensees, bringing in health care professionals who have not previously maintained liability coverage, and calling upon health care providers to perform acts they would not perform in the ordinary course of business.

The executive order:

• Grants immunity to any individual who holds a license, certificate, registration or certification to practice a health care profession or occupation in Pennsylvania and who is engaged in providing COVID-19 medical and health treatment or services during the COVID- 19 disaster emergency response. Immunity does not extend to acts or omissions that constitute a crime, gross negligence, or fraud, malice, or other willful misconduct.

• Extends immunity to those medical professionals in Pennsylvania that provide services in any health care facility as defined by 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 related to the commonwealth's COVID- 19 disaster emergency response.

• Affirms immunity for any person, organization or authority allowing real estate or other premises used for emergency services without compensation in the case 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 a host of regulatory barriers that would otherwise impede or prevent out-of-state, retired or other qualified practitioners from providing services where needed in the commonwealth.

The order was written in response to stakeholders requesting civil immunity for health care practitioners practicing with good judgment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The executive order also is in line with actions neighboring states have taken and is responsive to the needs and requests of the health care community, Wolf said.

This order is effective immediately and shall remain in effect for the duration of the disaster emergency, Wolf said.

Read the full order here.