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A legal expert is urging providers to document everything related to their response to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a move that could help providers defend themselves in a potential lawsuit stemming from their response. 

“Documentation is critical. Document, document, document your efforts,” Christy Tosh Crider, chair of Baker Donelson’s Health Care Litigation Group and the Women’s Initiative, said Tuesday. She issued the warning during a webinar hosted by the Society for Healthcare Organization Purchasing Professionals (SHOPP). 

Many providers may be subject to lawsuits in the coming months due to unfortunate patient outcomes from the new coronavirus, she warned, adding that procurement officers may become “critical witnesses” in such litigation. In fact, the first known lawsuit filed against the site of the first known U.S. outbreak, in Kirkland, WA, was filed Friday. 

In addition, the Florida Health Care Association came under fire over the weekend, when a USA Today article noted that the group had written the governor to ask for blanket immunity for healthcare providers from COVID-related lawsuits.

Tosh Crider said the focus of future lawsuits likely will involve staff members who have tested positive for the disease returning to work; struggles to get personal protective equipment; and staff training on how to effectively use personal protective equipment.

“What’s unfortunate is that you’re going to be judged against a standard six months from now that is not the standard today and wasn’t the standard yesterday, or last week,” she said. 

“You need to be documenting as each new piece of guidance comes out. As you and your organization respond to that new piece of guidance, document what you knew, when you knew it and what your response was,” she urged. 

For procurement officers at the corporate level, she warned that they should be documenting all of their decision-making and struggles regarding PPE. 

“Every piece of that you should treat as if it will have to be turned over some day in litigation. Treat your documentation as if I’m going to have to deal with it during an opening statement to a jury,” Crider said. 

“Treat it as if you’re going to have to turn it over to a regulatory body, and ask yourself is this communication sending the right message about our organization’s commitment to put proper PPE in place for the protection of our residents and the protection of our frontline caregivers,” she added. 

Next round of stimulus funding not expected this week

Medicaid and Medicare Advantage providers, along with coronavirus hotspots, will be the focus of the next round of stimulus funding, according to Clif Porter, senior vice president of government affairs for the American Health Care Association. 

Porter noted that the first $30 billion of the $100 billion health fund included in the stimulus package that was released Friday focused on Medicare fee-for-service providers. 

“The second round is pending and that will likely be issued in the early part of next week,” Porter explained. 

“I think it’s clear, at least to the skilled nursing sector, that this round at least intuitively should be a significant and a meaningful round of stimulus because the majority of our revenues, as you know, is from Medicaid,” he added. 

He also noted that the third round of stimulus funding would address assisted living and any other gaps that were missed in the first two tranches.