Whitmer Vetoes Bill That Would Have Made Hospitals Immune To Lawsuits During Pandemic

WWJ News
August 10, 2020 - 6:07 pm
whitmer, gretchen

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Photo: State of Michigan)

(WWJ) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vetoed a bill granting immunity to health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Michael MacDonald of District 10 in Macomb Township, would have amended Section 11 of the state's Emergency Management Act to shield health care workers from liability during any State of Emergency or disaster declared by the governor. 

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The governor called the bill an "overbroad attempt" to fix a problem created by the Republican-led legislature’s refusal to acknowledge the State of Emergency created by COVID-19 in Michigan.

“Republicans in the legislature refuse to acknowledge that Michigan, along with all fifty state and the federal government, are in a state of emergency and continue to try to block our efforts to address the pandemic. I previously extended special liability protections for certain health care providers during the first peak of COVID-19 to ensure that hospitals did not become overwhelmed, preserving their ability to provide care,” said Whitmer, in a statement. “Senate Bill 899 would endanger patients and workers unnecessarily, making it nearly impossible to obtain relief from injury during a state of emergency. As always, I will continue to work together with the legislature to protect Michiganders and their families during this crisis.” 

The Emergency Management Act provides limited immunity from lawsuits to medical providers, according to the state, activated only upon an official request, such as Whitmer made at the peak of COVID-19 in Michigan. SB 899 would made this immunity automatic, even when the emergency or disaster did not call for setting aside the normal standards of care. 

The Michigan Republican Party Chairman Laura Cox released the following statement regarding the governor's veto:

"During this crisis, Michigan’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals need to be focused on patient care, not on the risk of frivolous lawsuits. Today, Governor Whitmer chose to stand with the bigtime trial lawyers who funded her campaign, rather than with the frontline heroes who are working to keep our healthcare system operating during this pandemic."

Meanwhile,  health officials say the coronavirus is still spreading in the state, five months since the first case was confirmed in Michigan.

The state health department on Monday reported 557 new confirmed cases and eight more deaths. To date there are now nearly 88,000 cases and 6,257 deaths in Michigan. The number of coronavirus tests coming back positive in Michigan remains at just over 3%, and more than 63,000 people have recovered.