by Scott McClallen
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed Senate Bill 899, a bill intended to shield health care workers from liability during a state of emergency.
The immunity granted to health care workers and facilities would have stretched from March 10, 2020, to Jan. 1, 2021, as the state battles COVID-19.
Sen. Michael MacDonald, R-Macomb Township, sponsored the bill the Senate passed in May, and Whitmer vetoed on Monday.
The Michigan Health and Hospital Association, the Michigan State Medical Society, and 16 health care facilities throughout the state supported the measure.
The immunity granted wouldn’t have applied for willful misconduct, gross negligence, intentional criminal misconduct or intentional harm.
Whitmer said the bill went too far since it would have provided legal immunity for all declared emergencies.
“If this bill only attempted to restore the protections I offered under my orders, I would consider signing it. But the bill goes much further in ways that are directly counter to the interests of those receiving care,” Whitmer wrote in a letter.
“For example, this bill would give health care providers and the facilities that employ them broad immunity every time an emergency or disaster is declared, regardless of whether the circumstances demand this extreme measure,” Whitmer wrote.
Whitmer said she extended liability protections through the Emergency Management Act during Michigan’s COVID-19 peak to ensure hospitals weren’t overwhelmed.
“Senate Bill 899 would endanger patients and workers unnecessarily, making it nearly impossible to obtain relief from injury during a state of emergency,” Whitmer said in a statement. “As always, I will continue to work together with the legislature to protect Michiganders and their families during this crisis.”
MacDonald said he was disappointed Whitmer “has decided to protect trial lawyers instead of the front-line health care workers who are making critical decisions each day to save lives from COVID-19.”
“By vetoing this measure, the governor is just making it harder for medical professionals to do their job,” MacDonald said in a statement. “As this global pandemic continues, our doctors and nurses should be able to focus on providing the best care possible for their patients without worrying about possible lawsuits.”
Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, also criticized the veto.
“Michigan’s healthcare heroes are working on the front lines under incredibly difficult conditions and doing the very best they can to protect lives and keep our families safe,” Chatfield said in a statement.
“They deserve to know we all have their back and that we support them as they focus their time on providing top notch care, instead of worrying about politics, evolving legal opinions and frivolous lawsuits.”
He continued: “It’s strange that the governor felt our frontline healthcare workers deserved this protection two months ago but not today, since she did not include any legitimate explanation of her veto.”
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.