Baker files legislation to expand liability protection for healthcare workers during coronavirus pandemic

BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday that he has filed legislation to expand liability protection for healthcare workers on the frontline treating coronavirus patients, in addition to healthcare facilities, during the ongoing outbreak that has already left 433 Massachusetts residents dead.

“We are entering a period of time where we could be putting serious strain on our healthcare system and our hospitals,” Baker said during a news conference at the State House. “Federal and state law provides certain protections for healthcare workers, especially volunteers, against lawsuits and civil liability.”

After explaining that medical providers will be forced to make “difficult choices” in the coming days and weeks, Baker said that he is issuing a directive to maximize protections for healthcare workers and healthcare facilities under the PREP Act so they don’t have to worry about being sued for the medical care that they provide during the peak in the virus outbreak.

“We’re asking them to operate in conditions that they’ve never planned for. We need to make sure that the fear of getting sued doesn’t prevent them from doing what they need to do to treat as many people as possible,” Baker said. “They federal PREP Act on its own provides significant protections for healthcare workers. The directive that I’m issuing will ensure that healthcare workers and facilities that distribute testing, drugs, and medical devices for diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 are protected from lawsuits and liability to the maximum extent possible.”

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Baker added that he has worked with Attorney General Maura Healey, among others, to create additional protections in the bill that the healthcare workforce may encounter during the pandemic.

The bill was filed on Wednesday. It will protect healthcare professionals including, nurses, doctors, EMTs and others in the medical field working to combat the virus.

“We speak with leaders and doctors from Massachusetts hospitals and healthcare organizations every day,” Baker said. “This bill will make sure that they are free to do their jobs the best they can in this unprecedented situation.”

Baker urged the state legislator to move quickly on the bill, citing an expected surge in cases that could overwhelm hospitals between April 10 and April 20.

Coronavirus cases in the Bay State could surpass 150,000, according to Baker.

Baker also announced that a third mobile coronavirus testing site for first responders would be opening at the Big E fairgrounds in Springfield. The state opened a testing site at Gillette Stadium over the weekend.

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders added that the state would now track coronavirus cases by race and ethnicity to “better understand where and whom the burden on of the disease is falling.”

Baker again urged the public to stay home, practice social distancing, and be diligent about maintaining good hygiene habits.

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