ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A bill that would repeal the legal immunity granted to hospitals and nursing homes during the pandemic is heading to the Senate Health Committee Tuesday. Business leaders in New York are pleading with lawmakers to stop it from going through.
Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, says he worries hospitals and nurses will be targeted in a “free-for-all” by attorneys if the Senate votes to repeal immunity for healthcare facilities next week.
“We are exposing them to massive liabilities that will divert their resources, divert their time and energy to fighting off old lawsuits or potentially new lawsuits,” Stebbins told NEWS10, “when they should be really focusing on getting everybody vaccinated and fighting the next pandemic.”
Lawmakers, including Ron Kim, who sponsored the repeal bill in the Assembly, say the protections put into April’s budget could’ve allowed facilities to spend less money on COVID-19 care, including hiring staffing and investing in PPE. He wants a retroactive repeal, allowing families who feel their loved ones were met with negligence prior to the repeal the opportunity to sue.
However, Stebbins argues you shouldn’t apply the liability standards of now, when the pandemic has slowed down, to what was happening a year ago.
“To look at that with 20/20 hindsight as if we had all the PPE, we had all the ventilators, is really crazy. I mean, we were applauding our first responders in the streets, and now we’re going to absolutely throw them to the wolves,” said Stebbins.
According to Stebbins and other groups in the State’s business community who wrote a letter to the Senate urging them to keep the shield in place, the provisions don’t provide blanket immunity, as some lawmakers have been calling it, because they don’t offer protection in cases of gross negligence or willful misconduct.
Still, Attorney General Leticia James has called for the provisions to be repealed, particularly as they applied to nursing homes that knowingly took on more patients than their staffs could safely handle.