Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will sign a controversial bill granting immunity to hospitals against lawsuits related to their treatment of COVID-19, according to his office.
Floridians have been bombarding his office asking him to veto the bill because it offers protection from lawsuits only if medical providers follow government guidelines for treatment. For months, DeSantis has said he wants legal protections for doctors, allowing them to provide what they feel is best, even if those treatments don’t align with the federal government’s recommendations on how to treat COVID-19.
To address that problem, the DeSantis administration told The Epoch Times that the state Department of Health would be updating its policies to expand freedoms in three areas related to COVID-19. One of the updated policies will shield doctors who offer medical treatments they feel are best for their patients and not force adherence to guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The new policies will “buck CDC” guidelines by also eliminating forced masking of employees; reducing COVID-19 quarantines in schools, child-care centers, and workplaces to five days; and adding treatment guidelines “empowering health care practitioners to follow science” and no the “status quo,” the office wrote in a news release being prepared for the announcement.
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who was confirmed less than 24 hours earlier by the legislature to guide the state’s medical policies, told The Epoch Times that the new policies would partly address what made the hospital immunity bill so controversial.
“Basically, what we’re saying at the Department of Health is that it’s not acceptable for physicians to want to practice medicine in a way they think is appropriate, and for hospitals to get in the way of that, specifically with COVID-19,” Ladapo told The Epoch Times.
Federal policies have made doctors feel they can’t prescribe what they think is best, Ladapo said. Doctors feel they must administer treatments they believe could be harmful, based on what “the CDC or Dr. Fauci or whoever was saying,” he said.
“We’re basically saying, ‘That’s not okay.’ And we expect doctors to take care of patients in the way that they feel best, which is to apply their clinical knowledge and their clinical experience,” Ladapo said.
“Doctors who encounter a situation where they’re being blocked from treating patients in a way that is appropriate have recourse. They can file a complaint with the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHA).”
Additional policies set to be announced on Feb. 24 would stop the “terrible, dehumanizing practice” of forcing employees to wear masks when data show masks don’t provide meaningful protection, Ladapo said. Masking provides “no benefit for anyone,” he said.
Ladapo has faced harsh criticism by media pundits and Democrat politicians for questioning federal COVID-19 policies, challenging mask and vaccine mandates, refusing to discuss his own vaccine status, and urging Floridians to begin to “reject fear” and live with more normalcy again.
Why haven’t federal policies moved more quickly to do the same?
“Weak research timed to concur with political objectives—that’s been a very consistent thing,” he said.
The public announcement of the Department of Health policies came on the first day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held this year in Orlando. DeSantis was scheduled to speak at the mammoth event at 1:30 p.m.
The day marked the deadline for him to either sign or veto the hospital immunity. It was not clear what time he would sign the law, but it would take effect immediately after it is signed. Many Florida residents at the annual conference had been waiting anxiously to hear what he would do, and hoped he would announce a plan to veto.
The original legislation, passed in 2021, protects health care providers from lawsuits related to COVID-19. It was set to expire in March. Florida lawmakers delivered the bill to extend that law through June 1, 2023, to DeSantis’ desk late on Feb. 17.
The Republican-led effort to extend the bill quickly passed through the Florida House and Senate. The measure adds 14 months to the law granting near-immunity to health care providers for, among other things, their treatment of COVID-19, as long as they follow “government-issued health standards relating to” the disease.
That’s the part that irked so many Floridians, and caught the eye of other lawmakers around the country, as they watched to see what DeSantis would do.
Citizens concerned about the bill flooded the offices of lawmakers around the state Capitol with phone calls, emails, and visits.
This is an excerpt from The Epoch Times.
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