Governor Wolf on Monday vetoed HB 1737, which would have provided limited civil immunity from lawsuits for health care providers, hospitals, nursing homes and other businesses.  The veto came late in the afternoon on the last day of the 2019-2020 legislative session,

In his veto message Wolf said shielding entities from liability as the bill did was “inviting the potential for carelessness and a disregard for public safety.”  He said COVID-19 immunity protection must be paired with worker protections, including paid sick leave for employees.

PA-ACP will continue to push the General Assembly and the Governor to expand the limited liability that’s been approved, to cover physicians, medical teams and support staff who are all helping the state respond to the pandemic.

The Chapter had asked Wolf to sign the bill, noting physicians tireless work with millions of non-Covid patients, being forced to put off necessary but elective procedures, tests and surgeries, making major changes in office operations and patient care to accommodate the Commonwealth’s needs and avoid overcrowding at hospitals and health systems, preserving needed beds and equipment.

“Our members and other health care professionals should be able to practice with assurance, knowing they will not be targeted with frivolous, and potentially devastating litigation in the future.  On the other hand, those who act with gross negligence or disregard safety precautions should not be protected and we support robust enforcement against bad actors or irresponsible employers,” said PA-ACP president Lawrence Ward, MD, FACP.

Ward told the Governor that small and independent practitioners need the same protections hospitals and large health systems enjoy, urging him to provide this temporary, targeted legal safe harbor for health care practitioners operating in good faith and complying with state requirements.  Without this assurance, PA-ACP’s members face the threat of unfair, opportunistic lawsuits over processes, procedures, and health care outcomes as a result.

“These protections will allow our members to direct their focus and resources to public health, help our needed small and private practices survive, and continue to provide access to the highest quality medical care for ALL Pennsylvanians,” Ward said.