New Jersey Enacts Legislation to Provide Healthcare Professionals and Facilities Civil and Criminal Immunity in Response to COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

New Jersey Enacts Legislation to Provide Healthcare Professionals and Facilities Civil and Criminal Immunity in Response to COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

Cedar Grove, New Jersey – April 15, 2020

On April 14, 2020, the Governor of New Jersey signed into law a bill providing healthcare professionals and facilities immunity in providing services related to COVID-19 from civil and criminal liability for claims alleging injury or death incurred during the public health emergency and state of emergency declared by Executive Order 103 (“EO 103”).  The bill further authorizes the temporary reinstatement and recertification of professional certifications for certain healthcare first responders.  Notably, the legislation is retroactive to March 9, 2020, the date EO 103 was executed.

The following are the bill’s key provisions:

Immunity for Healthcare Professionals

Under the legislation, healthcare professionals shall not be liable for civil damages for injury or death allegedly sustained as a result of a negligent act or omission in the course of providing medical services in support of the State’s response to COVID-19 during the state of emergency declared by EO 103.

Covered healthcare professionals are defined as physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses or other health care professionals regulated by N.J.S.A. 45:1-1 et. seq., as well as certain emergency medical technicians, mobile intensive care paramedics, and radiologic technologists.

Immunity for Healthcare Facilities and Healthcare Systems

A healthcare facility, or a healthcare system owning or operating more than one facility, shall not be liable for civil damages for injury or death allegedly sustained as a result of a negligent act or omission by its officers, employees, agents, or volunteers to the same extent as healthcare professionals covered by the legislation. Significantly, the immunity extends to criminal and civil liability as it relates to the allocation of ventilators and scarce medical resources, so long as a resource allocation policy is adopted.  Further, telemedicine and treating patients beyond the normal scope of the healthcare professional’s license or practice is also covered.

Covered healthcare facilities include those set forth in N.J.S.A. 25:12-2 including hospitals, outpatient facilities, intermediate and long-term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, residential treatment facilities, adult day care centers, ambulatory surgical facilities, rehabilitation facilities and home health agencies.

Notably, modular field treatment facilities and other sites designated for temporary use for essential services supporting the State’s COVID-19 response are also covered.

The Legislature made clear that immunities granted by the bill do not apply to medical treatment rendered in the ordinary course unrelated to COVID-19 emergency, such as orthopedic procedures and OB/GYN services.   Further, the immunities do not apply to acts or omissions constituting crime, fraud, actual malice, gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Licenses and Certificates for Practice of Professions and Occupations

The bill provides the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, during a state of emergency or public health emergency, is authorized to issue an administrative order to temporarily suspend any provision of N.J.S.A. 45:1-1 et. seq. or suspend or temporarily modify any rule concerning the practice of any profession or occupation for which licenses, certificates, registration, or certifications are issued by the Division or any board or other body in the Division. Any administrative order issued by the Director ceases to apply upon the expiration of the state of emergency or public health emergency.

Temporary Reinstatement and Reactivation of EMT and Paramedic Certifications

Under the bill, the Commissioner of Health is authorized to issue provisional certifications, or temporarily reinstate or recertify certain emergency medication technicians or paramedics whose professional certification has expired subject to certain conditions.  Further, the Commissioner of Health may temporarily reactivate paramedics placed on inactive status, and grant reciprocity to paramedics licensed in other jurisdictions subject to certain conditions.

Conclusion

This legislation provides new protections to healthcare professionals and healthcare facilities on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, the immunity extends only to injuries sustained as a result of a negligent act or omission in the course of providing medical services, as well as the allocation of scarce medical resources, in support of the response to COVID-19 during the state of emergency declared by EO 103.   Further, the legislation allows for the temporary reinstatement of emergency medical service personnel and temporary reciprocity to paramedics licensed in another state, in certain circumstances, given that adequate staffing is an ongoing concern.

If you would like additional information on this topic, please contact: Thomas P. Scrivo at tscrivo@oslaw.com or James DiGiulio at jdigiulio@oslaw.com or (973) 239-5700.

 

 

This article is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.

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