BOSTON (4/17/2020) – The Massachusetts Senate and House on Friday passed legislation to shield those providing critical health care services from legal liability for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave men and women in health care who continue to treat patients amid this public health pandemic,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This urgently needed legislation will ensure that our healthcare system will be able to expand capacity quickly to treat patients during the surge of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. I would like to acknowledge Senators Michael Rodrigues, Cindy Friedman and James Welch, as well as Speaker DeLeo and our colleagues in the House for expeditiously advancing this critical bill.”
“Our action today will protect our health care workers and health care facilities during this time of crisis as they work to care for an unprecedented number of patients,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “This legislation will give our health care providers a sense of relief as they heroically treat the residents of the Commonwealth. I appreciate the leadership of Senate President Spilka as well as the work of Chairs Michlewitz and Murphy to bring these issues forward.”
“With the COVID-19 surge now upon us, our health care system is under duress and being tested like it’s never been tested before,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “With the passage of this important legislation today, the Senate has acted with urgency to provide peace of mind protections to our front-line health care workers who are going above and beyond to help those in critical need of care during this incredibly difficult time.”
“This necessary legislation will provide much needed liability relief for our health care workers and facilities so they can continue to focus on combating the COVID-19 public health crisis,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston).
“This is a major step in ensuring that we have the workforce necessary to address the healthcare needs of our residents during the current pandemic,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This bill maximizes protections for a wide variety of healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, who are sometimes being asked to work in very unique settings like field hospitals and other locations. I want to thank the Senate President and Chair Rodrigues for recognizing the urgency of this issue and for moving this bill forward quickly.”
“Health care professionals from a variety of disciplines, and from different stages of their careers are risking their lives to join the fight against this pandemic,” said Senator James T. Welch (D-West Springfield). “As a Commonwealth, we owe it to these dedicated amazing medical personnel to relieve them of this burden. We have to show them that we value their courage and that we trust that they are giving the best possible care available for all patients.”
“During this time, we must do all that we can to protect front line workers,” said Representative James Murphy (D – Weymouth), Chair of the Financial Services Committee. “This legislation will go a long way to ensure that our health care professionals who are thrust into this worldwide pandemic are afforded vital legal protections enabling them to do their job in an extremely trying health care environment. We owe a debt of gratitude to all of them and I know together we will get through this.”
“The stress and strain imposed on health care professionals right now is unlike anything that they have endured; by taking legislative action we lessen some of that burden,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “These healers are heroes and they deserve the legal protection to make good decisions based on their best medical judgement in this uncharted territory.”
“Our health care professionals are on the front lines caring for COVID-19 patients while operating under extraordinarily difficult and strenuous conditions,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “Protecting these essential workers from the threat of lawsuits and civil liability will help make their jobs a little easier, while sending a strong message to the health care community that we fully support their continuing efforts to keep us all safe and healthy.”
Under the legislation, health care professionals, facilities and volunteer organizations assisting in the state’s efforts to respond and treat COVID-19 would be protected from suit and civil liability for alleged damages related to the virus. Health care facilities and professionals would still be subject to consumer complaints brought by the Attorney General and protections would not extend to acts of negligence, recklessness, or intent to harm or acts of discrimination. These protections would apply retroactively to March 10, 2020, and remain in effect for the duration of the State of Emergency.
The bill, which is the latest action by the Legislature to address the COVID-19 public health crisis and its effects on Massachusetts, has been signed by the Governor.