Nursing home providers in the state of New York can breathe a little bit easier regarding liability during COVID-19. Language included in a state budget bill in late March protects them from many lawsuits.

Such relief is particularly significant as New York has been hardest hit by the coronavirus compared to the rest of the United States. More than 5,300 nursing home residents are believed to have died from the virus. Such staggering numbers might have subjected facilities to the possibility of lawsuits over questions of negligent care. The bill’s provision also shields hospitals and healthcare facilities from legal recriminations.

Stephen B. Hanse

The measure, which many lawmakers did not realize was in the bill, is now facing scrutiny. But nursing home providers, which lobbied hard for such a provision, according to a New York Times news story, believe such protections make sense during a public health crisis. They also cautioned that the provision does not offer blanket immunity.

 “Liability protections for healthcare providers such as hospitals and skilled nursing and assisted living providers and their employees in emergent circumstances are quite common as these limited protections allow providers and staff to focus on the provision of necessary care while constantly adjusting to ever changing rules and orders associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency,” Stephen B. Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News

“It is important to note that in instances of gross negligence and reckless misconduct, providers and healthcare workers will still be held accountable under New York’s law,” he said.

New York is one of at least 15 states that have given nursing homes some legal cover during COVID-19. New Jersey, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin have also passed measures to keep nursing homes and other healthcare facilities safe from liability. And governors in nine other states have issued executive orders protecting facilities from most lawsuits regarding their work during the pandemic.