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Covering our Volunteers

By Hermen Yee, Esq, and Caren-Elise Titus, CRICO

Related to: Ambulatory, Emergency Medicine, Primary Care, Nursing, Obstetrics, Other Specialties, Surgery

If you are a member of the Harvard medical community who has registered with the MA Responds* program to volunteer in a declared public health emergency, you may have wondered if you are covered by your CRICO medical professional liability policy. The good news is that generally you are covered! The only caveat is that some of you need to obtain certain written authorizations from your sponsoring institutions.

There are three categories of potential volunteers enrolled in MA Responds as it relates to your medical professional liability (MPL) coverage: 1) employees, students, or volunteers; 2) physicians, dentists, and podiatrists; and 3) medical students, interns, residents, and fellows. Which category you fall into is important, because our policies provide coverage under different situations: a) “acting within the scope of their duties”; b) “acting within the scope/course of their professional responsibilities”; or c) “acting within the scope/course of their professional employment.”

Employees, Students, or Volunteers

Hospital technicians, registered nurses, and other hospital staff employed by a CRICO member are covered under their employer's CRICO MPL policy when they volunteer to assist in a declared emergency/disaster as part of the MA Responds program. The employer should set forth in writing that these volunteers are doing so “within the scope of their duties.” It is highly recommended that the Hospital provide a document to these volunteers that explicitly authorizes them to provide disaster assistance within the scope of their duties. The Hospital may choose to continue paying these volunteers their usual salary during the time the volunteers are deployed. Whether or not these volunteers receive pay from their employers, though, does not affect their liability coverage under the policy. However, payment to a volunteer does impact any type of state or federal immunity that might be available.

Physicians, Dentists, or Podiatrists

Physicians, dentists, and podiatrists are covered under their sponsoring institution's CRICO MPL policy when they volunteer to assist in a declared emergency/disaster as part of the MA Responds program. However, there is a distinction: these individuals must be acting within the scope/course of their “professional responsibilities.” Here, there is no need for the sponsor institution to authorize that the volunteer services are “within the scope of their duties.” As regulated healthcare professionals, the scope/course of their professional responsibilities as physicians, dentists, and podiatrists includes providing emergency care to victims of a disaster or emergency.

Medical Students, Interns, Residents, or Fellows

This category of healthcare providers is collectively referred to as “House Officers.” They are provided coverage under their sponsoring institution's CRICO MPL Policy. The extent of this liability coverage requires House Officers to be acting within the scope/course of their professional employment. The House Officers should complete a Moonlighting Waiver and return it to CRICO.

 

*More information on MA Responds


January 5, 2018
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