Earlier this week, Pennsylvania joined a number of other neighboring states in protecting healthcare providers from liability during the COVID-19 pandemic as result of a new Executive Order issued by Governor Wolf. However, its protections may in practice be limited.
The Executive Order grants civil immunity to any individual who is appropriately licensed, certified, or registered to provide health care services in Pennsylvania and, in good faith, provides emergency or disaster services activities "related to the Commonwealth's COVID-19 disaster emergency response" that result in death or injury to another. However, immunity is available only if the health care professional provides such services in a "health care facility," as defined under Pennsylvania law, or a nursing facility, personal care home, assisted living facility, alternate care site, community-based testing site, or non-congregate care facility that is also engaged in services "related to the Commonwealth's COVID-19 disaster emergency response." The Executive Order provides no protections for healthcare practitioners acting outside of such facility settings, nor does it protect the facilities themselves. It also specifically excludes from its liability protections "health care professionals rendering non-COVID-19 medical and health treatment or services to individuals" but offers no guidance as to the meaning of "non-COVID-19" treatment or services. It is also unclear whether the Executive Order is retroactive or, instead, only protects health care providers from liability moving forward.
Buchanan's Government Relations professionals continue to monitor whether the Governor's office will provide any further details regarding this Executive Order. If you have questions as to the applicability of the immunity protections to your organization, we can help.
For more cutting-edge perspectives on legal and business implications of COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 resource center.