Since the beginning of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, healthcare workers have been at the forefront of the fight – the fight to save as many lives as possible, while doing our best to protect ourselves against this deadly virus. As we work, the threat of COVID-19-related lawsuits hung over our heads, with no liability protections in place to safeguard us. Amidst the difficulties and stress of caring for patients in overcrowded hospitals, there was then the added concern of having a lawsuit on our hands at any moment. Fortunately, Speaker Chris Sprowls and Governor Ron DeSantis acted quickly to give us protections from COVID related lawsuits. Their leadership on this issue was greatly encouraging and is the start we need to propel continued reform. Their efforts to protect healthcare workers and ensure that we are able to do our job without fear of a lawsuit is the leadership we need right now.
Looking to the future and assessing how we can continue to advocate for positive change in lawsuit reform, it is clear that the next step is working on medical liability lawsuits. Medical liability issues create obstacles for dedicated healthcare workers, and we are in need of continued reform efforts. We are currently facing a doctor and nursing shortage in Florida, and the number of lawsuits do not help us with recruiting efforts.
Doctors and nurses are required to make quick decisions and treat patients – often times in critical situations. Hospital administrators are under the same stress as they allocate resources and accommodate patients with a variety of health needs. The last thing they need is the threat of a lawsuit forcing them to operate with the fear of being sued. As healthcare workers, we need to have protections put in place to provide security and assurance in our workplace as we care for patients.
One thing to help during these uncertain times is to provide liability protections for healthcare workers. Ensuring legal protections for doctors and nurses against these frivolous lawsuits is something that needs to be a legislative priority in Florida and for Florida legislators. I ask that legislators work to protect the hard-working men and women in the hospitals and make it a priority to rid our state of lawsuit abuse.
I encourage Florida lawmakers to consider more of these types of protections for medical providers, so hospitals and staff can effectively focus on the important work of saving lives. Healthcare practices cannot risk a lawsuit due to plaintiffs’ lawyers taking advantage of our vulnerability in this situation. Even though we have a doctor shortage in the state, I am confident that smart legislation and good leadership could ease that crisis quickly.
Hardworking, honest, front line workers do not deserve to be targeted by exploitative lawsuits, and we deserve protections put in place to get this problem under control. It is a blessing that our leaders worked to pass covid liability protections for medical workers. I urge all of our state’s legislators to act on further liability immunities and to protect our healthcare workers.
Kimberly Joly is a licensed practical nurse and coordinator for Transforming Florida.