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COVID-19 Issues Affecting Physicians, Physician Assistants, Advanced Practice Nurses and Nurses

Chicago Doctor and Nurse LawyerOn March 20, 2020 Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-10 (“Order”) which required all residents of Illinois to shelter in place. The Order was extended through April 30, 2020. The Order exempted all healthcare workers for the obvious reason that healthcare is a critical concern in the current global pandemic. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (“IDFPR”) has recently posted on its website bulletins related to the healthcare industry, a number of which are entitled “Guidance.” The bulletins concern the temporary relicensing of retired and out-of-state healthcare non-licensed practitioners. None of these bulletins deal with ethical issues in providing healthcare services in a COVID-19 environment.

Specifically, there does not seem to be real guidance for the #1 question Williams and Nickl receives from clients: Must a doctor, PA or nurse remain working in a hospital or clinical setting in which they objectively believe the practice environment is a danger to themselves or their families? The answer is NO!

Even though politicians and science experts resort more and more to the “war” analogy, an Illinois healthcare worker cannot be charged with desertion. As an Illinois healthcare licensee, you are not bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice to sacrifice your life or the health of your family. But all healthcare professions have an affirmative duty to avoid patient abandonment. In short, no doctor, nurse or PA can quit on the spur of the moment. All healthcare practitioners are required to arrange, in one form or another, for the continuity of patient care. What constitutes reasonable notice and arrangement for continuity of care varies widely by individual circumstances.

The most common circumstance that we are asked about today concerns a hospital or clinic environment in which the proper PPE does not meet acceptable safety standards. If giving notice of your resignation would not compromise patient care, you are free to leave upon reasonable notice. Make sure to document via email or memorandum the reasons for leaving, describe the arrangements for continuity of care and describe why patient care will not be compromised at your hospital or clinic. If you are terminated before you actually resign, remember you may have to self-report that termination to IDFPR. We can assist by creating and submitting the necessary self-report.

If a problem does arise, Williams & Nickl will get you through that process and back on the right track. Our firm focuses on professional license defense before the IDFPR.

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