Legislators must carefully consider industries’ request for protection from liability

Nursing homes and meat-packing plants should be held responsible to keeping their employees safe.

By

Opinion

May 7, 2020 - 9:56 AM

Burbank Rehabilitation Center's employees in Chicago hold a news conference outside the center to protest the lack of PPE equipment April 23, 2020. Photo by Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune

Nursing homes are asking state lawmakers to shield them from lawsuits related to the explosion of coronavirus cases in senior-care facilities. Meatpacking plants are making the same request. No one doubts the difficult job those facilities face, but they are for-profit businesses that must accept at least some responsibility for business decisions that could put the pursuit of profits ahead of worker safety. Gov. Mike Parson should be crystal clear about the extent of immunity he advocates when urging the Legislature to embrace this idea.

Parson has endorsed a provision in Senate Bill 662 that would protect nursing homes and long-term care providers from liability for civil damages in their good-faith efforts to combat this pandemic. On the face of it, such protections seem only logical as nursing home staffers work feverishly to keep residents alive in facilities that are highly vulnerable to infection.

The pandemic is linked to an estimated 20,000 deaths inside nursing homes nationwide. In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order on April 1 declaring that health care facilities are “immune from civil liability for any injury or death occurring while the health care facility is engaged in the course of rendering assistance to the state in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

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