An Act Relative to Emergency and Disaster Planning For Healthcare Providers

The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA), on behalf of its member hospitals, health systems, physician organizations and allied healthcare providers, appreciates this opportunity to offer comments in strong support of SB1193 “An Act Relative to Emergency and Disaster Planning for Healthcare Providers.”

This MHA priority legislation provides important and timely liability coverage for those providers and others who volunteer to assist during a state-declared disaster or pandemic situation. The goal of the bill is to ensure that the healthcare community is best able to respond quickly with all available resources to effectively assist and treat patients during a government-declared disaster or pandemic.

SB1193 ensures protections for healthcare professionals that are providing services in emergency situations and where they may be asked to provide services outside of their scope of practice – for example, a primary care physician assisting in an emergency department or providing specialty services. This legislation certifies that no healthcare provider shall be liable in a suit for damages or administrative sanctions as a result of good faith acts or omissions while engaged in the performance of duties in rendering emergency care, treatment, advice, or assistance during a declared statewide or regional public health emergency, or while acting as a result of a pandemic or a disaster.

While there are federal, state, and local statutory and constitutional limits on civil liability for normal volunteer practices – such as volunteer protection statutes or governmental immunity provisions – these protections are afforded only to government employees or agents. Current “Good Samaritan” statutes also do not provide sufficient protections to medical professionals who are providing services during the course of their normal work. The specific liability protections called for by SB1193 are needed to ensure the ongoing viability and strength of the healthcare system in such emergency situations.

There is no doubt that a pandemic or disaster event will require collaborative and detailed planning efforts, including the recruitment and training of volunteer healthcare professionals, to ensure the goal of providing the best possible care to the greatest number of people as quickly as possible. To be more fully prepared for such instances, we need to be able to identify and eliminate the legal and administrative barriers that could impede the deployment of these professionals. SB1193 will provide the necessary liability protections for providers so that the commonwealth’s statewide preparedness planning and volunteer recruitment can be most effective. We respectfully urge the committee to issue this bill a favorable report.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony on these important matters. If you have any questions, or require further information, please contact Michael Sroczynski, MHA’s Vice President of Government Advocacy, at (781) 262-6055 or msroczynski@mhalink.org.