Important Update for Healthcare Providers: Federal and State Agencies Take Actions to Help Healthcare Facilities Continue to Provide Care
When the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) was initially passed, the limited definition of healthcare provider caused anxiety for many long-term-care facilities and hospitals, as the newly enacted leaves were anticipated to further impact the already difficult task of ensuring that sufficient staff is available to provide necessary care.
The Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division Provides Further Clarification Regarding the Application of the FFCRA
On March 28, 2020, the Department of Labor explained that, for purposes of qualifying for the exemption to the leave mandates, the definition of healthcare provider should be interpreted more broadly than in other areas of the FFCRA or the FMLA.
Specifically, the DOL explained that:
For the purposes of employees who may be exempted from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave by their employer under the FFCRA, a health care provider is anyone employed at any doctor’s office, hospital, health care center, clinic, post-secondary educational institution offering health care instruction, medical school, local health department or agency, nursing facility, retirement facility, nursing home, home health care provider, any facility that performs laboratory or medical testing, pharmacy, or any similar institution, employer, or entity. This includes any permanent or temporary institution, facility, location, or site where medical services are provided that are similar to such institutions.
It expanded the definition even further to include businesses that provide necessary support and services to healthcare facilities:
This definition includes any individual employed by an entity that contracts with any of the above institutions, employers, or entities institutions to provide services or to maintain the operation of the facility. This also includes anyone employed by any entity that provides medical services, produces medical products, or is otherwise involved in the making of COVID-19 related medical equipment, tests, drugs, vaccines, diagnostic vehicles, or treatments. This also includes any individual that the highest official of a state or territory, including the District of Columbia, determines is a health care provider necessary for that state’s or territory’s or the District of Columbia’s response to COVID-19.
Moreover, the DOL provided a definition of emergency responder. This definition is broad enough that many healthcare facilities may be deemed both a Health Care Provider and an Emergency Responder:
For the purposes of employees who may be excluded from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave by their employer under the FFCRA, an emergency responder is an employee who is necessary for the provision of transport, care, health care, comfort, and nutrition of such patients, or whose services are otherwise needed to limit the spread of COVID-19. This includes but is not limited to military or national guard, law enforcement officers, correctional institution personnel, fire fighters, emergency medical services personnel, physicians, nurses, public health personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, emergency management personnel, 911 operators, public works personnel, and persons with skills or training in operating specialized equipment or other skills needed to provide aid in a declared emergency as well as individuals who work for such facilities employing these individuals and whose work is necessary to maintain the operation of the facility. This also includes any individual that the highest official of a state or territory, including the District of Columbia, determines is an emergency responder necessary for that state’s or territory’s or the District of Columbia’s response to COVID-19.
In its clarification, the DOL repeatedly encourages employers to be judicious when using these definitions to exempt healthcare providers from the provisions of the FFCRA.
Although these definitions are not currently set forth in the statute, and are not regulations issued by the DOL, the DOL’s interpretation should considered persuasive until such time that it does releases regulations as authorized by the FFCRA.
Other clarifications regarding the interpretation of the FFCRA can be found at dol.gov.
The Agency for Health Care Administration (“AHCA”) Temporarily Waives Certain Requirements for Staff Caring for Residents
At the state level, AHCA approved the Florida Health Care Associations. The FHCA’s proposal to temporarily allow Personal Care Attendants to perform resident care procedures currently delivered by Certified Nursing Assistants. One purpose of this move it to provide nursing centers with additional staff to care for residents during the period of the State of Emergency. The program is effective March 28 through May 1, 2020, or until such time AHCA finds it necessary to extend or discontinue the program to meet the needs of the crisis.