On April 14, 2020, Georgia governor Brian P. Kemp signed an Executive Order (the Order) in response to the COVID-19 crisis and the state’s current Public Health State of Emergency. In the Order, Kemp acknowledges that healthcare institutions and facilities are critical in providing assistance and care during the COVID-19 crisis. Kemp further explains that in order to continue the provision of these services, additional flexibility is required. As a result, Kemp executed the Order, which grants healthcare workers certain protections under the law.
Pursuant to the Order, employees, staff, and contractors of healthcare institutions and medical facilities will, during the Georgia Public Health State of Emergency, be deemed “auxiliary emergency management workers” under O.C.G.A. § 38-3-35. Similarly, services provided by healthcare institutions and medical facilities will be considered “emergency management activities” under O.C.G.A. § 38-3-35.
Effective April 14, 2020 at 2:25pm and lasting throughout the Public Health State of Emergency in Georgia, auxiliary emergency management workers and persons engaged in emergency management activities will be afforded the limited liability customarily reserved for the state and political subdivisions. Accordingly, auxiliary emergency management workers and persons engaged in emergency management activities will be protected from claims related to a person’s death, injury, or damage to property.
This limitation of liability is quite broad and extends beyond COVID-19 patients and services. So long as the person is an employee, staff, or contractor of any entity listed below, or the person is engaged in services provided by any entity listed below, the person’s actions – both inside and outside the scope of COVID-19 – are protected from liability.
Despite being generally broad in scope, this immunity is not be afforded to persons who do not reasonably attempt to comply with applicable Georgia law governing emergency management workers and their activities, as described in Articles I-III of Georgia Code, Title 38.
Affected Healthcare Entities
The Order only applies to persons engaged with the services of—and the employees, staff, and contractors of— “Institutions” and “Medical Facilities” as defined by O.C.G.A. § 31-7-1(4)(A), (C)-(G) and O.C.G.A. § 31-7-1(5). Accordingly, the Order applies to the following entities:
- Any building, facility, or place in which are provided two or more beds and other facilities and services that are used for persons receiving examination, diagnosis, treatment, surgery, maternity care, nursing care, assisted living care, or personal care for periods continuing for 24 hours or longer and which is classified by the department, as provided for in this chapter, as either a hospital, nursing home, assisted living community, or personal care home;
- Any building or facility, not under the operation or control of a hospital, which is primarily devoted to the provision of surgical treatment to patients not requiring hospitalization and which is classified by the department as an ambulatory surgical treatment center;
- Any fixed or mobile specimen collection center or health testing facility where specimens are taken from the human body for delivery to and examination in a licensed clinical laboratory or where certain measurements such as height and weight determination, limited audio and visual tests, and electrocardiograms are made, excluding public health services operated by the state, its counties, or municipalities;
- Any building or facility where human births occur on a regular and ongoing basis and which is classified by the department as a birthing center;
- Any building or facility which is devoted to the provision of treatment and rehabilitative care for periods continuing for 24 hours or longer for persons who have traumatic brain injury, as defined in O.C.G.A. § 37-3-1;
- Any freestanding imaging center where magnetic resonance imaging, CT scanning, PET scanning, positron emission tomography/computed tomography, and other advanced imaging services as defined by the department by rule (but not including X-rays, fluoroscopy, or ultrasound services), are conducted in a location or setting not affiliated or attached to a hospital or in the offices of an individual private physician or single group practice of physicians and conducted exclusively for patients of that physician or group practice; and
- Any licensed general hospital, destination cancer hospital, or specialty hospital, institutional infirmary, public health center, or diagnostic and treatment center.
Please contact the authors or your MMM attorney with any questions about how this order may affect your business.