What Physicians Should Know about Gov. Wolf's Executive Order Granting Medical Liability Immunity to Some Health Care Practitioners

Last Updated: May 13, 2020

Gov. Tom Wolf has heard the voices of some physicians across the state for the need to provide medical liability immunity for health care workers treating COVID-19 patients. On May 6, 2020, he issued an executive order granting immunity to some physicians. Read the full executive order here (the immunity language can be found on page 9).

COVID19-gavel-webThe Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) acknowledges this as a good first step toward protecting the physicians of Pennsylvania. The governor falls short, though. We are frustrated that his executive order did not cover practitioners in outpatient settings, leaving them vulnerable to personal injury lawyers. While Gov. Wolf acknowledged that these practices provide 'life-sustaining services,' his executive order falls short by not providing these physicians medical liability protection.

Answering FAQs on the Executive Order

In a Quick Consult fact sheet, PAMED answers physicians' frequently asked questions about the order. We provide more details on which facilities are covered, who is exempted, how long immunity under the order lasts, and more. 

In addition to the immunity provisions, the order temporarily suspends regulations promulgated by the Department of Health, including three provisions that pertain to anesthesia services. Our fact sheet also offers more details on the provisions related to anesthesia services.


Get the Fact Sheet 


Facilities and Settings Included in the Executive Order

Below is a list of facilities and settings included in the governor’s executive order (Note that we have also specified certain health care facilities that are not included in the order):

  • Health care facilities as defined under 35 P.S. § 802a of the Health Care Facilities Act:
    • General, chronic disease, or other type of hospital
    • Home health agency
    • Home care agency
    • Hospice
    • Long-term care nursing facility
    • Cancer treatment centers using radiation therapy on an ambulatory basis
    • Ambulatory surgery facility/center
    • Birth center regardless of whether it is operated for profit, non-profit, or by an agency of the Commonwealth or local government
    • A HEALTH CARE FACILITY DOES NOT INCLUDE the four settings noted below:
      1. An office used primarily for the private practice of a health care practitioner
      2. A program which renders treatment or care for drug or alcohol abuse or dependence unless located within a health care facility
      3. A facility providing treatment solely on the basis of prayer or spiritual means
      4. A facility which is conducted by a religious organization for the purpose of providing health care services exclusively to clergymen or other persons in a religious profession who are members of a religious denomination
  • Nursing facility
  • Personal care home
  • Assisted living facility
  • Alternative care site
  • Community-based testing site
  • Non-congregate care facility

Next Steps

PAMED believes that giving some physicians cover while leaving others exposed could create a culture of defensive medicine, where physicians in outpatient settings refer patients with COVID-19 symptoms to the emergency room for fear of being sued.

Physicians and other health care professionals in the outpatient setting are encouraged to reach out to Gov. Wolf and legislators to voice your concerns.

PAMED will continue to advocate on behalf of our membership for medical liability immunity for all physicians. We will share any updates with members when available.

2 comments

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  1. Jeffrey McGovern | May 20, 2020
    see above
  2. Jeffrey McGovern | May 20, 2020

    The executive order falls short of protecting the valued physicians of the great State of Pennsylvania. An executive order not covering all aspects of physician duties (outpatient and inpatient) is insufficient and an insult to all of the state physicians who are proving unselfish care to people at their own peril. Governor Wolf, I plead with you to protect the physicians who are putting the health of their families and themselves at risk to help our residents

     

    Jeffrey McGovern, MD, FCCP, FAASM,

    President, ECMS

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