On April 8, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp issued an Executive Order designating employees, staff, and contractors of health care institutions and medical facilities as emergency management workers. While these employees are engaged in emergency management activities during the current public health state of emergency, they will not be liable for death, personal injury, or property damage that results from those activities, except where the employee acts with willful misconduct, gross negligence, or bad faith.
The above protections only apply to employees, staff, and contractors of health care institutions and medical facilities. Under the statute, “health care institution” includes hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living communities, and personal care homes that provide care for periods continuing for 24 hours or longer. Collection and testing facilities, ambulatory surgical treatment centers, and freestanding imaging centers are also classified as health care institutions. “Medical facility” means any licensed general hospital, destination cancer hospital, specialty hospital, institutional infirmary, public health center, or diagnostic and treatment center where care is provided for periods continuing for less than 24 hours.
The greater protections against liability for employees, staff, and contractors of health care institutions and medical facilities are meant to allow these personnel to provide critical assistance and care during the present emergency, without fear of onerous legal consequences for bad outcomes that are unavoidable.
It is important to note that the definitions of health care institutions and medical facilities do not include physicians’ and dentists’ private offices and treatment rooms in which such physicians or dentists primarily see, consult with, and treat patients. Employees, staff, and contractors of physicians’ and dentists’ private offices and treatment rooms do not qualify as emergency management workers and are subject to the usual standards of care and liability. Also, any employees, staff, and contractors of health facilities where abortion procedures are performed are likewise not classified as emergency management workers under the Order.
Health care personnel who are acting diligently and in good faith during this unfortunate crisis should have assurance that they will not be penalized.