Legislation to protect health care providers from COVID-19 lawsuits gained Senate approval Wednesday, despite Democratic efforts to block a final vote on the bill.
Senate Bill 300, by Sen. Julie Daniels and Rep. Terry O’Donnell, creates the “COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Limited Liability Act.” Under the bill, a health care facility or health care provider would be made “immune from civil liability for any loss or harm to a person with a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 caused by an act or omission by the facility or provider that occurs during the COVID-19 public health emergency.”
Daniels told lawmakers the bill protects health care workers who are “dealing with the treatment, diagnosis, the planning of transfer, medication—all of those things that go into providing health care.”
“They would be protected from a civil action alleging less than standard care, unless the plaintiff can prove that the injury was the result of gross negligence, or willful or wanton misconduct,” said Daniels, R-Bartlesville.
The legislation would not provide liability protection for the treatment of patients who have maladies other than COVID-19, and the bill provides liability protection for health care providers treating COVID-19 patients only through October 31, 2020.
Under the bill, a provider would have no immunity for acts of gross negligence.
Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, argued the legislation could not be heard under the Senate’s rules because it did not deal with treatment of COVID-19 patients when the legislation was originally heard by the Senate earlier this year. Language protecting doctors and nurses from COVID-19 lawsuits was added through the amendment process in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Daniels said Senate rules allow that chamber to hear any bill that passes the House.
The House amendments to SB 300 were adopted on a 38-9 vote with Democrats united in opposition. When a subsequent vote for final passage occurred, most members of the Democratic caucus flipped positions and voted in favor of the legislation. SB 300 passed on a 43-4 vote with three Democrats and one Republican in opposition.
The bill now goes to Gov. Kevin Stitt.