Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed off on a measure that extends COVID liability protections for healthcare providers such as hospitals and nursing homes. Under the bill, the protections first put in place last year will continue through June of 2023. But some lawmakers worry the provisions are too broad.
“If this was healthcare we’d be using a scalpel and I think we’re using an axe here instead,” says Rep. Joe Geller (D-Aventura.)
Geller says as COVID related rules and protections are lifted across the country he doesn’t see the need for keeping liability protections in place.
“Just to have a blanket statement on any kind of bad medical care that may be given and just say, ‘well, it’s the pandemic. You can kind of get away with anything you want to.’ Well, that’s not a good approach,” Geller says.
Rep. Ralph Massullo (R-Lecanto) argues the pandemic is not over and points out the virus and treatments continue to change. That’s why he thinks continued liability protections for healthcare entities are needed.
“We need to protect those healthcare entities that include the patients, that include the providers, that include the practices that you and I might go to for our healthcare that need to be staffed by individuals that believe and know that the state of Florida has their backs, is willing to protect them, so they can go out every day without fear of liability,” Massullo says.
But, Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) says she’s heard from healthcare workers who say the legislation doesn’t make them feel supported.
“ I just wanted to amplify some of the concerns brought to me by constituents who are some of the frontline staff, just expressing concern when it comes to extending the COVID liability protections for some of these medical institutions because for them they feel like it can be a disincentive for these companies to provide the best safety standards,” Eskamani says.
Eskamani says she also worries the language could be used to make it harder for people to bring lawsuits for issues that aren’t directly linked to the coronavirus, such as medical care concerns caused by staffing shortages. That’s a worry for Rep. Felicia Robinson (D-Miami Gardens) as well.
“There are some people that are going to the hospital that have things that are medical concerns that are not COVID related, are in the hospital and there are some things that are happening and unfortunately they are unable to get justice or to plead a case because medical people are saying that they’re short-handed because of COVID,” Robinson says.
But Lakeland Republican Representative Colleen Burton, who carried the bill in the House, told lawmaker as she closed on the floor, the measure is narrowly focused.