In Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania, doctors and nurses are stepping into uncharted waters to care for patients affected by COVID-19. Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania legislature need to do their part by protecting all of our state’s health care workers.
Unfortunately, an executive order recently issued by Gov. Wolf falls short of providing civil liability protection to every physician and nurse.
The order covers health care workers who show they acted in good faith while caring for COVID-19 patients within a hospital, nursing home, or ambulatory surgical center. But when care is provided outside of those settings – in an office, let’s say – physicians still run a risk of being sued.
The Governor and Secretary of Health have both stressed the importance of preventing hospitals from becoming overcrowded should more COVID-19 outbreaks occur.
Many physicians work in both an office and hospital setting. Only protecting health care workers in hospital settings may create a culture of defensive medicine, where physicians in office settings refer patients with COVID-19 symptoms to the emergency room for fear of being sued.
To prevent that, the American Medical Association and Pennsylvania Medical Society urge Gov. Wolf and our state legislature to follow the lead of New York, New Jersey, and other northeastern states by expanding medical liability immunity to all health care workers.
Scott Shapiro, MD, is former president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society and president of OnCall Physician Staffing in Horsham, Pa.