NEW JERSEY – Legislation protecting health care professionals treating patients during the COVID-19 state of emergency from civil and criminal malpractice claims was signed by Governor Phil Murphy this week.
The bill grants protections from claims alleging injury or death against a health care worker providing medical services in support of the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Our healthcare facilities and the dedicated doctors and nurses who provide critical care to patients have stepped up to respond to this emergent public health crisis, often without the resources they need to do their jobs effectively,” Senator Kean (R-21) said. “Many of the challenges they face, including shortages of life-saving ventilators, are not the result of negligence but of a massive surge in need and limited national supply. We must recognize that our healthcare facilities, doctors, and nurses are doing the best they can with what they have. They deserve the assurance that they will not be punished for trying to save lives under these unbelievably difficult circumstances.”
The bill also grants temporary reinstatement of emergency medical service personnel with recently expired certification to contribute in the fight against COVID-19, and provides temporary reciprocity to paramedics licensed in other states.
“Adequate staffing is an ongoing concern in our hospitals and emergency vehicles,” Senator O’Scanlon (R-13) said. “This law can bring hundreds of qualified reinforcements to the coronavirus front line where they will provide essential assistance to both patients and hospital staff. This crisis demands all hands on deck, and these selfless, well-trained individuals are ready, willing and able to join the cause.”
Under the law, health care facilities and health care professionals are shielded from civil and criminal liability in connection with the allocation of mechanical ventilators or other medical resources provided the facility adheres to a scarce critical resource allocation policy that incorporates core principles identified by the Commissioner of Health.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Thomas H. Kean, JR.District 21 (Morris, Somerset and Union) Senator Stephen M. Sweeney District 3 (Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem), Senator Bob Smith District 17 (Middlesex and Somerset), Senator Declan J. O’Sscanlon JR. District 13 (Monmouth), Assemblyman James J. Kennedy District 22 (Middlesex, Somerset and Union), Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli District 3 (Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem), Assemblyman John Dimaio District 23 (Hunterdon, Somerset and Warren), Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald District 6 (Burlington and Camden). The bill was co-sponsored by Senators Addiego, Gopal, Cardinale, Holzapfel, Oroho, Pennacchio, Singer, Thompson, Sacco, Assemblywoman Pinkin, Assemblyman Tully, Assemblywoman Swain, Assemblymen Space, Wirths and Assemblywoman DiMaso.