The House Health & Human Services Committee conducted a workshop Thursday where lawmakers discussed COVID-19 liability protections for Florida’s health care providers.
The committee spoke with hospital and nursing home representatives who stressed the need for protection. Lawmakers also heard from lawyers. They, alternatively, suggested Florida’s current laws may go far enough.
Amanda Maggard, the AdventHealth President and CEO of Dade City and Zephyrhills, supported the protections. She contended the medical community is pioneering a new frontier, often with limited staff and supplies.
“In these unprecedented times, we urge you to help us mitigate these risks,” Maggard said. “The pandemic has forced changes in the delivery of care, and the liability implications are immense without greater protection.”
Coral Springs physician Jason Goldman also spoke to the fear of mass litigation, recalling that the government blocked elective procedures and health screenings during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“What I am seeing months later is diagnoses for cancer and other conditions that had to be delayed for obvious reasons,” he said. “I worry about the liability, that they’re going to now claim there was a delay in their cancer diagnosis through no fault of my own and no fault of the medical profession but because we are in a pandemic and everything had to be shut down.”
Goldman added: ” I really do want to stress the importance of understanding that elective does not mean cosmetic. Elective means non-urgent.”
Jacksonville lawyer Thomas Edwards, however, noted that adequate legal shields are already on the books. He added that raising the bar for the standard of care may be harmful to consumers.
To that point, Maggard clarified she isn’t seeking complete immunity but rather an adjustment to the level of gross negligence.
A few committee members, meanwhile, suggested that employees should also be offered protection while at work.
The House Health & Human Services Committee meeting comes after a house subcommittee advanced legislation Wednesday that creates COVID-19 liability protections for select Florida businesses.
That measure, HB 7, raises the bar for COVID-19 litigation against Florida businesses, nonprofits, schools and religious institutions. It notably omits long term care providers, employees and other health care facilities.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls vowed to fast-track the legislation during the upcoming legislative session.
The 2021 Legislative Session begins March 2.