The coronavirus pandemic has been terrifying for almost everyone, but doubly so for healthcare providers, who have a higher risk of being exposed to the virus than anyone else. Making the risk of viral exposure worse, however, is the potential risk of legal exposure to medical malpractice claims from patients you are treating. So, how do you protect yourself from legal liability during the coronavirus pandemic as a healthcare provider?
The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has been the single greatest healthcare crisis America has seen in over a century, and healthcare providers have been overwhelmed by the challenges it has posed. A shortage of personnel, equipment and even available space have all made treating the disease especially difficult, and that is without the coronavirus infecting the doctors, nurses, orderlies, and lab technicians working to treat patients. The combination of insufficient resources and exhausted personnel means that mistakes are almost inevitable.
Healthcare providers are aware of this, of course, and they have been seeking legal protections from liability for COVID-related claims. In New York, an executive order by Governor Andrew Cuomo granted temporary immunity from a variety of claims for the duration of the coronavirus crisis, but it does not protect against claims involving “gross negligence,” and it does not apply universally. The executive order also has no impact on federal laws, and federal legislation to protect healthcare providers has not yet been passed. As such, healthcare providers are concerned they are going to face a wave of litigation arising out of the coronavirus crisis.
If you want to protect yourself as a healthcare provider from legal liability, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, you should check for guidance from the appropriate regulatory agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and any other regulatory agency that regulates your business. Ensuring you are compliant with this guidance will significantly reduce your risk of being held liable.
Second, you need to remain conscious of your staff’s well-being. The physical and mental toll of long hours dealing with COVID-19 patients, along with the other injuries and maladies that they must deal with, make it more likely that they will make critical errors. As much as possible, you should ensure your staff do not overwork themselves into exhaustion, which places them and your patients at greater risk of harm.
Finally, you should ensure you have appropriate legal representation available, just in case your best efforts still result in you being sued. The sooner you consult with an attorney, the more quickly you can take steps to protect yourself from liability. After all, you have enough to worry about during this pandemic without the burden of lawsuits weighing on your mind.
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