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THE WEEKLY CHECKUP: NURSING HOMES SEEK SHELTER FROM LAWSUITS

Hello and happy Friday.

As the numbers of coronavirus cases continue to mount in the homes and centers that take care of Florida’s elderly citizens, a trade association that represents the businesses is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to grant them far-reaching legal protections.

The Florida Health Care Association last week sent a letter to the governor asking that he provide immunity from any civil or criminal liability “for any harm or damages alleged to have been sustained as a result of an act or omission in the course of arranging for or providing health care services” during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew told nursing homes Thursday that the request is under consideration.

"The governor's office, their legal team, legal teams from the other state agencies, are currently evaluating what can be done and what is in the best interest in addressing the concerns that you've identified," Mayhew said in phone call with nursing home providers.

The April 3 letter, signed by FHCA President Emmett Reed, says the proposed blanket immunity should not apply to willful or intentional criminal misconduct or gross negligence. But Reed argued that something that happened as a result of a staffing or resource shortage should not be considered misconduct or negligence.

The FHCA’s request comes at a critical time, since some facilities have become "hotspots" for the coronavirus. For example, seven deaths have been reported at one Fort Lauderdale assisted living facility. And on Friday, DeSantis announced that 51 people --- including 31 staff members --- had tested positive for the coronavirus at a Suwannee County nursing home. DeSantis said the Florida Department of Health had sent a strike team to investigate the facility. The governor also said the source of the spread was an employee who tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

The Florida Health Care Association isn’t the only group that has asked for legal protections during the pandemic. Last month, the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association sent a letter to DeSantis warning that an executive order halting non-essential elective medical procedures could result in “unintended consequences.” The associations asked the governor to consider limiting legal liability to health care providers or to extend the state’s sovereign-immunity limits to providers who are abiding by the order.

The letter from FHCA also asked that sovereign-immunity limits be applied to health care professionals and health care facilities responding to the outbreak. “This would provide the necessary liability protection to health care professionals and health care facilities to provide services for any individual in the state during the emergency rule without fear of reprisal for providing care to their patients during this difficult time,” the letter said.

In other news, Mayhew told nursing homes Thursday that her agency was preparing an executive order that would extend by 60 days already-approved nursing home generator variances. Mayhew said the order would be coming from her office soon. "While many of you are making progress to have your current generator installed, this obviously created some delays so we are working on an emergency order," Mayhew said. "You will hear more from us shortly on that."

RULES

The Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling proposes Emergency Rule 64B4ER20-24, which revises the definition of "face-to-face psychotherapy." More here.

WEEK IN RVEIW

—Learning how to fly ... How many Miami coronavirus cases are undetected? A pinprick of blood may provide answers. More here

—Getting ready ... Florida shoring up its ventilator supply as coronavirus peak approaches. More here

—Epicenter ... Retiree-rich Palm Beach County leads Florida in COVID-19 deaths. More here

—Reversal ... Jackson Health ‘indefinitely defers’ hospital worker furloughs and pay cuts amid virus. More here

—Drilling down ... Florida’s coronavirus map now shows cases by zip code. More here.

—Let’s not make a deal ... Inside Florida’s frenzied, failed dash to dole out $600 million in no-bid mask deals. More here

—Gaps ... Florida coronavirus testing varies widely, often by income. More here.

—The toll ... Longtime OB-GYN at Jackson South hospital dies after novel coronavirus infection. More here

—No visitors ... Florida’s nursing homes are locked down. It’s hard on those inside and out. More here.

—Backup ... In search of ventilators, Florida looks at surgery centers. More here

—Curious ... ‘Flu-like’ data might help track coronavirus spread. Why did Florida stop publishing it? More here. 

—Economic fallout ... Tampa Bay health workers feel pain as virus saps hospital budgets. More here.

—On second thought ... As CDC drops guidance on choloroquine as COVID-19 therapy, doctors ask for research. More here

—Worried ... Gadsden County residents voice safety concerns about hospital. More here

CALENDAR

April 13 

1:30 p.m. The Florida Board of Nursing meets to discuss cases where prior probable cause has been found. Call (888) 585-9008; participant code: 275112502. Agenda here.

April 14

2 p.m. The Ed and Ethel Moore Alzheimer Advisory Board meets to announce a funding opportunity. Call (888) 585-9008; participant code: 852642835.

April 15

10 a.m. The State Child Abuse Death Review Ad-Hoc Group meets. Call (888) 585-9008; participant code: 574649225.

1:30 p.m. The Department of Health meets to review new research studies involving human participants, modifications to existing studies, and ongoing research to make sure research studies comply with the department's ethical regulations. Place: 2585 Merchants Row Blvd., Room 320, Tallahassee.

April 16

2 p.m. The Board of Massage Therapy meets to discuss cases where prior probable cause has been found. Call (888) 585-9008;  participant code: 508909666.

April 17

9:15 a.m. The Board of Acupuncture meets. Call (888) 585-9008; participant code: 360472368. Agenda here.

2:30 p.m. The Board of Medicine panel that reviews probable cause cases in South Florida meets. Call (888) 585-9008; particpant code: 432162565.

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