Hospitals Disappointed After Failure to Pass Limited Protections for Medical Providers

Lake Oswego, Ore. – December 21, 2020 – Today House Democratic leadership failed to extend important protections to health care providers during the COVID-19 state of emergency. The legislation would have enabled frontline workers to continue to care for Oregonians within the state’s new emergency standards without fear of legal action. Despite bipartisan joint committee support, SB 1803 did not garner enough votes after disagreement over last-minute amendments brought forward on behalf of SEIU and the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association. 
The original version of SB 1803 was a consensus proposal carefully crafted over many months by a workgroup made up of a wide range of stakeholders and would have instituted limited liability protections only during the COVID-19 emergency period. The amendment offered on behalf of SEIU, however, would create permanent changes in law that have long been on the organized labor wish list.  
“Oregon’s health care providers should not fear being sued while they comply with new guidelines issued in response to COVID-19,” said Becky Hultberg, President and CEO of OAHHS. “We are disappointed that House Democrats would only support a bill that included an amendment that takes the legislation outside of its original purpose. This bill has been the result of a long, good faith stakeholder process. To see it hijacked at the 11th hour is disappointing and disturbing. There are no winners here – but the losers are the physicians, nurses and other providers on the frontlines every day caring for Oregonians during a pandemic. Let’s be clear, hospital and health systems stand with our staff, who continue to show up for Oregonians each and every day in our facilities during this unprecedented time.” 
SB 1803 did not provide so-called “blanket immunity.” Providers could still be sued for gross negligence or reckless misconduct. The protections cover government imposed rules and executive orders that impact their delivery of care.  
Frontline health care providers have been critical partners throughout this pandemic, responding to patient needs as COVID-19 cases have surged. Hospitals have worked since the start of the pandemic to secure protections for health care workers who must make excruciating life-or-death decisions in an environment of ever-changing, and at times conflicting, guidance and executive orders. 
“Health care workers are community heroes, and it is incredibly unfortunate that House Democrats chose not to support them today,” said Hultberg. “Our providers have shown up every day under incredibly difficult circumstances. We owe them a modicum of protection during this crisis. We hope the legislators who voted to include the last minute amendment will see the light and advance SB 1803 with its original language. Our thanks go the Senate leadership and House Republicans who supported the original legislation. We are especially grateful to Senator Prozanski, who worked tirelessly to help develop a reasonable consensus with bipartisan support.”