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Lawmakers seek extended protections for healthcare workers

Florida Capitol
Florida Capitol(WCTV)
Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 4:46 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - New York City instituted a new mask mandate Tuesday as the stock market was down over renewed COVID fears.

In Florida, state lawmakers took a step to extend liability protections to healthcare workers in case the pandemic doesn’t wain soon.

Derell Butler has spent the last 15 years working as a certified nursing assistant.

The last year and a half have been the toughest.

“It’s been very hard. It’s been very hard. Especially seeing our loved ones pass away inside a nursing home facility,” said Butler.

Legislation protecting healthcare workers like Derell and his employer from COVID-related lawsuits is set to expire at the end of March.

Lawmakers want to add another 14 months of protections.

“So, as our front line workers are out there doing God’s work and protecting us, we just want to make sure they aren’t out there looking over their shoulders, doing everything they can during an uncertain global pandemic,” said Senate sponsor Danny Burgess.

Under the legislation, a healthcare facility would have to been grossly negligent or engaged in intentional misconduct to be sued.

A patient would also have to specifically pinpoint where and when a infection occurred.

Trial lawyers argued against the extension.

“This disincentivizes heathcare providers from doing the things are necessary to help us end this pandemic,” said Stephen Cain with the Florida Justice Association.

But nursing home attorneys testified that even with the protections in place, they are in court everyday.

“There was a stop in the number and volume of the lawsuits coming in, but there still is active litigation,” said attorney Robin Khanal.

The sponsor told us the legislation is not about fears that the pandemic is getting new legs, but a fact that lawsuits live on.

Democrats voted no.

“It protects bad actors and lumps them into the same category of those who who are working hard to provide for our loved ones,” said State Senator Darryl Rouson.

Lawmakers end their session March 11.

If the bill gets bottled up in last minute horse trading, the governor would have just a little over two weeks to sign it before the current protections expire.

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