Pennsylvania Governor Signs Executive Order Granting Civil Immunity to Health Care Providers
On May 6, 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order providing a wide range of health care practitioners with protection from civil liability for good faith actions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. This executive order is the latest in a series of actions taken by Governor Wolf during the past two months by which he suspended statutes and regulations to ensure health care providers are best equipped to deal with this health care crisis. Neighboring states, including New Jersey, have recently moved to grant health care professional immunity for their providers as well.
Under the Governor’s May 6 executive order, civil liability immunity is granted to any individual holding a license to practice health care in Pennsylvania who is engaged in providing COVID-19-related medical and health treatment or services. Immunity is provided to professionals providing services in a licensed health care facility, including a nursing home, personal care home, assisted living facility, or alternate care site used for conducting emergency activities. Moreover, individuals and organizations that are providing real estate to be used for emergency response purposes without compensation are likewise granted immunity from civil liability.
The civil immunity does not extend to providers rendering non-COVID-19-related medical and health treatment or services, nor to acts that would constitute a crime, gross negligence, fraud, malice or other willful misconduct. The civil immunity only applies to the individuals providing the COVID-19 care and not to the facilities or entities where the individuals work.
This executive order also temporarily suspends numerous regulatory statutes and regulations with the goal of supplementing the Commonwealth’s health care workforce, including:
- Facilitating the deployment of out-of-state health care professionals;
- Expanding scope of practice rules;
- Relaxing supervision requirements for certain health care licensees;
- Relaxing hospital medical staff appointment limitations; and
- Relaxing payment rules, including those related to patient transportation to health care facilities.
The executive order took effect immediately and will remain in place for the duration of the disaster emergency.
It is not yet known if any parties will challenge the scope of this most recent executive order.
Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr’s lawyers regularly assist health care providers and institutions with regulatory compliance and with responding to the business and legal challenges posed by the current public health emergency. For questions about how this article affects you individually, your practice, or your facility, please reach out to the authors.