Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie today announced the Legislature has advanced legislation to limit the immunity that was granted in the State Fiscal Year 2020-21 Budget. The new legislation will narrow that scope to certain health care professionals who treat patients during the COVID-19 state of emergency.
The legislation is not meant to disregard the immense sacrifices made by the medical community during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but instead it seeks to prospectively balance the protections afforded to our heroic health care workers while recognizing the rights of their patients when provided care. Now that the peak of the COVID-19 health crisis has passed here in New York and our hospitals are recovering, this legislation will serve to better strike that balance by narrowing some of the liability protections afforded by limiting their application to the actual care and treatment when related to the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19 (S.8835/A.10840).
“The legislation that was advanced during the budget and at the height of the pandemic provided enhanced immunity to COVID effected healthcare facilities and professionals. Our health care system and workers were facing an unprecedented challenge in a crisis situation and protections were needed,” Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins said. “The heroic work of our health care workers has allowed us to move forward past the initial crisis stage. Therefore, it makes sense to limit the scope of immunity to ensure all New Yorkers are protected. I thank Senator Sepulveda for advancing this legislation, and for the Senate Majority and our Assembly Majority colleagues for passing it swiftly.”
“There is no doubt that our health care system has faced unprecedented challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Speaker Heastie. “We could never possibly repay our heroic health care workers for all of their selfless service during this health crisis. This legislation ensures that New Yorkers have access to legal recourse against bad actors, while acknowledging the unimaginable sacrifices of our health care workers.”
Senate bill sponsor Luis Sepúlveda said, “Families grieving loved ones lost in nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic deserve answers. This bill allows for better transparency and accountability from our healthcare system. New Yorkers deserve to know their loved ones are receiving the best care, and this legislation works to remove those immunity protections.”
“The issue addressed in this legislation has had a profound impact on both my community and my family,” said Assembly bill sponsor Ron Kim. “This legislation will ensure that New Yorkers have a right to recourse should they encounter neglect or misconduct by unscrupulous health care providers or facilities. This is a good step toward restoring the rights of patients and nursing home residents that were taken away from them during this pandemic. Moving forward, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities will be held accountable for failing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that is a big win for our families, residents and workers.”
This legislation will amend the definition of the health care services that are eligible for immunity from liability by removing “prevention” of COVID-19 from the definition of health care services. This legislation will also clarify that the immunity applies to the assessment or care of an individual with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, and will remove immunity protections for a health care facility or health care professional that is “arranging for” health care services.