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How Can My Practice Navigate the COVID-19 Threat?

Updated: May 6, 2021

On Wednesday, March 11th, 2020 the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-10 a pandemic. This new designation however, should not change the current course of action in preventing and treating the disease.

As a healthcare provider, you have questions about the best practices for handling this disease and how to best ensure the safety for your patients and staff. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we're seeing regarding COVID-19.

When to Test Patients with COVID-19 Symptoms?

The Center for Disease Control has routinely updated their guidelines on evaluating and testing persons for COVID-19 since the outbreak began. Below are the best practices to follow as of Sunday, March 8th, 2020

Clinicians are encouraged to work with state and local health departments to coordinate testing in laboratories. Healthcare providers should use their better judgement to determine which patients require testing and are advised to continue testing for other possible causes for respiratory related illnesses in the interim. Some guidelines for priorities for testing may include:

Hospitalized patients who have signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 in order to inform decisions related to infection control.
Other symptomatic individuals such as, older adults and individuals with chronic medical conditions and/or an immunocompromised state that may put them at higher risk for poor outcomes (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, receiving immunosuppressive medications, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease).
Any persons including healthcare personnel, who within 14 days of symptom onset had close contact with a suspect or laboratory-confirmed4 COVID-19 patient, or who have a history of travel from affected geographic areas5 (see below) within 14 days of their symptom onset.

All hospitals and staff should be prepared for the arrival of patients with COVID-19. See the Center for Disease Control's checklist for preparing hospitals for the containment of possible COVID-19 patients here.

Does Treating COVID-19 Patients Increase My Liability?

As of Thursday, March 12th, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar extended the liability protection to healthcare providers, suppliers, drug makers and other entities for activities related to medical countermeasures against COVID-19.

Under this provision, clinicians will be protected from claims related to the treatment of COVID-19 patients, unless the claims involve willful misconduct.

You can read the entire declaration, here.

If I Contract COVID-29 While Treating A Patient, Will My Workers' Compensation Policy Cover It?

Workers' Compensation is statutory, therefore the answer as to whether or not a clinician contracting COVID-19 would be a covered WC claim is, it depends.

The Virginia Workers' Compensation Act provides coverage for injuries that arise from the course of employment. However, there are very specific regulations that are used to quantify if a disease is a covered claim.

The act covers occupational diseases which are described as, "ailments that are contracted or aggravated due to the nature of a particular kind of work," (Weiss & Weiss LLC, Occupational Disease Coverage under Workers' Compensation Statutes). However, the act excludes coverage for ordinary diseases of life. These illnesses are defined as sicknesses to which the general public is exposed to outside of an individual's employment.

Due to this crucial distinction, any claim for COVID-19 would have to be thoroughly investigated and unless the claimant can provide heightened proof regarding when/how the exposure to the disease took place, it is unlikely it would be covered. You can learn more about how carriers are handling possible COVID-19 claims using The Hanover Insurance Group's COVID-10 Outbreak FAQs.

While workers' compensation carriers are conservative with their coverage for COVID-19 related claims, the best way to protect yourself and your practice is prevention.

Ensure your staff is aware of the latest guidelines on personal protective equipment for healthcare personnel. Read the Center for Disease Control's most recent guidance on PPE here.

What are the best HR practices for handling a COVID-19 case in the workplace?

The arrival of COVID-19, has challenged employers all over the country as they face new challenges in navigating the disease and protecting their staff.

To help employers better understand their options, ThinkHR has compiled information for the most commonly asked questions related to COVID-19.

In this 45-minute webinar, Senior Legal Editor, Kara Govro will share the resources and best practices on topics including, work-from-home policies, FMLA, and PTO.

You can register here for the Thursday, March 19th, 2020, webinar.

While we all are working to adapt to the changing environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, your team at Professional Risk Associates is available to assist you with your professional liability and insurance needs.  Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at (800) 318-9930 or via email:  Please stay well and healthy!

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