ODA testifies in favor of coronavirus immunity bill

Ohio Dental Association Executive Director David J. Owsiany recently provided testimony to the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee in favor of legislation providing certain professionals and businesses qualified immunity from civil liability and other professional discipline for actions taken related to the current coronavirus pandemic.
Owsiany told the committee in written testimony that “on March 17, 2020, the State of Ohio issued an order directing all health care providers, including dentists, to delay all non-essential procedures and surgeries” in order “to preserve PPE for front line health care workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic.” Owsiany pointed out that from March 18 to May 1, Ohio dentists “essentially shut down their practices only opening to provide emergency care in order to keep dental patients from presenting to hospital emergency departments, which were dealing with coronavirus testing and treatment.” He testified that “many dental practices have been financially devastated by this unexpected and unplanned for closure” but “Ohio’s dentists are now being allowed to reopen their practices and provide the full range of dental services.” Owsiany explained that the reopening of dental practices is not only good for dentists but it is also good for all Ohioans “because a continued delay in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of dental disease can lead to worsening of oral health and more invasive dental procedures and surgery down the road” and such delays can also worsen systemic health issues. Owsiany explained the additional precautions dentists are taking when reopening their practices in order to protect their patients, their staff and themselves. Owsiany concluded his testimony as follows:
“As Ohio’s economy begins its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the liability protections contained in Substitute House Bill 606 will give dentists the ability to reopen their practices, restore their staff, and provide the care their patients need and desire, free from unnecessary concern over liability. Dental offices are already taking steps to mitigate risk of exposure by following professional and regulatory guidelines. Nonetheless, the coronavirus is not going away altogether. Absent an effective vaccine, Ohioans will undoubtedly continue to contract COVID-19, oftentimes through unknown sources. Defending against claims related to exposure will be costly and nearly impossible to determine with certainty.
Accordingly, we ask you to support giving Ohio’s health care professionals, including dentists, protection from liability during this current global health crisis, which they had no hand in creating. Substitute House Bill 606 will help Ohio dentists confidently reopen their offices to provide the oral health services Ohioans need and desire free from the unnecessary distraction of the threat of uncontrolled litigation. On behalf of the 5,300 member dentists of the Ohio Dental Association, I urge your support of Substitute House Bill 606.”
Owsiany’s entire written testimony can be found here.
The current version of Substitute House Bill 606 would, among other things:
  • Grant qualified immunity from tort liability and professional discipline for injury, death, or loss that allegedly resulted because a dentist or other health care provider was unable to treat a person for any condition, including the inability to perform any elective procedure, due to an executive or director’s order or a local health order issued in relation to an epidemic or pandemic disease or other public health emergency.
  • Grant qualified civil immunity for injury, death, or loss to person or property against any person if the cause of action on which the action is based, in whole or in part, is that the injury, death, or loss is caused by the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of COVID-19.
For more about Substitute House Bill 606, click here.
The ODA will provide updates on Substitute Houle Bill 606 as the legislative process further unfolds.