The New York State Senate has voted to repeal protections which had previously granted legal immunity to health care facilities, administrators, and executives during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Treatment Protection Act (A3397/S5117) was passed on last week by a 63-0 unanimous decision. The plan outlines a new level of transparency that must be met by both hospitals and nursing homes. In addition, the plan would also fully remove the existing immunities which were first established by an executive order by Governor Cuomo. Although the executive order expired in May of 2020, another bill was passed in April of the same year within the state’s budget, which expanded these protections, and added immunity for nursing home corporate executives. The Treatment Protection Act joins a larger wave of reforms aimed at protecting and improving the lives of New Yorkers living in nursing homes. The newest reforms are a result of the recent nursing home scandal where it was discovered that facilities had been untruthful about conditions and how patients were being treated. With recent news reports uncovering negligence of officials and executives regarding the health and safety of vulnerable New Yorkers, this bill is intended to hold those responsible accountable.
Colloquially known as the Emergency or Disaster Treatment Act, Article 30-D (Section 3082) states that “any health care facility or health care professional shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, for any harm or damages alleged to have been sustained as a result of an act or omission in the course of providing health care services.” By providing blanket immunity to facilities and corporate executives alike, the act allowed for medical negligence to occur unchecked. After an investigation carried out by her office, New York Attorney General Letitia James came to the conclusion that the existing statutes (30-D) provided financial incentives for nursing homes to refrain from investing public funds into sufficient care for residents. James noted that although it is reasonable to provide some immunity for health care workers, “it would never be appropriate or just for nursing homeowners to be given blanket immunity for causing harm to residents.” James continues, “I applaud the Legislature for taking this critical action and ensuring that no one can evade potential accountability for the devastating loss of life that occurred in New York’s nursing homes.”
Senate Bill S5177 asserts that negligence by administrators and executives has “occurred to an extraordinary degree.” The bill is being passed with the intention of “holding health care facilities, administrators, and executives accountable for harm and damages incurred.” The bill states “This article is a much-needed step to holding health care administrators responsible and doing everything possible to stop more preventable deaths from happening.” (S5177) With these blanket immunities revoked, hospitals, nursing homes, and corporate executives will now be legally liable for malpractice or negligence regarding the care of patients during the pandemic. Having passed through the State Senate, the Treatment Protection Act will now be delivered to the Governor for his signature before being enacted.
If you, or someone you know, was the victim of medical malpractice or negligence during your treatment for COVID-19, call The Grandelli Firm to speak with an experienced attorney.