Responsibility of health workers in quarantine

Today, psychological stress due to the rapid spread of coronavirus COVID-19 is increasing day by day. And although there is more and more information in the news feed about the maximum support of health care workers, both financially and morally, such close attention to their activities has the flip side: every mistake, a negative fact that is not clear without detailed study may prompt not only civil society, but also state authorities, to condemn the actions of the person. 

That is why, if you are a health care worker or the owner of a health care facility, awareness of the grounds for imposing liability, consequences and measures of this liability can help you avoid problems.

Read also: How To Safely Advertise Medical Services?

Doctors liability during quarantine

A health care worker, head of a health care facility or any other official from a legal point of view shall be considered as:

  • A common offender;
  • A special offender, in the case of an offence associated with medical education, or special powers in medical institutions - so-called “professional offences”.

We often offer consultations to the persons providing health care services at the beginning of their activity. During such consultations we explain all their duties (and their employees, if any), as well as possible liability for failure to fulfill these duties. However, we can also consult in case of a problem situation, in order to minimize the negative consequences as much as possible.

Let’s talk about the types of liability in more detail.

Doctors criminal liability

A doctor may be convicted of offences under articles 131-132, 134, 136, 138-143 of the Criminal Code. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Failure of a health care worker to provide help to a patient;
  • Improper performance of professional duties, which resulted in significant deterioration of a person’s health;
  • Illegal experimentation on a human being.

The head of a health care facility, any official, may be threatened with prosecution under Articles 137, 184, 364-368 of the Criminal Code. These are mainly official, corruption-related offences.

Without going into the analysis of each of them, we can say that under current conditions the most likely will be violations related to the provision of medical care to a patient, improper performance of the duties by a medical officer, or violation of patients’ rights.

This is due to the fact that health care facilities may impose restrictions which they believe can ensure the quality of medical services and the safety of patients. However, these measures may contradict with the recommendations of the WHO and the Ministry of Health of Ukraine to counter the spread of coronavirus. Moreover, the facts that according to the former head of the Ministry of Health, Ukraine has only 4,000 lung ventilation devices, complicate the situation. However, it’s worth mentioning that the situation with other necessary devices is also complicated.

Under such conditions, it is quite easy to transfer liability to medical personnel even without a reasonable basis. Therefore, it is necessary to understand your area of responsibility and make sure that your actions are consistent with the provisions of the law.

Read also: Legal Risk Management In The Healthcare Sector

Liability for violation of quarantine rules

In addition to the standard “professional” offenses of doctors, there is a special liability for violation of quarantine rules, which was supplemented by legislative amendments dated March 17.

1. Violation of the rules and norms established for the prevention of epidemic and other infectious diseases (an offence under Article 325 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine) is probably the main and most resonant case of prosecution today, which is punishable by imprisonment for a term up to three years.

Liability for similar actions has existed in the legislation for about two decades, and recent amendments are just aimed at strengthening penalties for violations. For a long time, this provision was “dead” and there have been few prosecutions under it. Now, within a few weeks of spreading the coronavirus disease, Ukrainian law enforcers have already opened 33 criminal proceedings (at the time you read this article, this number is probably higher).

Although this does not mean that all cases concern doctors, as employees of the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection, self-governance bodies or executive authorities, whose duties include combating contagious diseases, can also be held liable. However, this statistics exactly reveals the situation.

For example, it is not difficult to find information about the suspicion of a private clinic for failure to report positive coronavirus tests (the name of the clinic is not specified due to objective reasons). Such acts, or violation of the rules of medical care for coronavirus patients, which could or can lead to an even greater spread of the disease, could be qualified as a crime.

2. Administrative liability for violation of the rules of introduction of medical devices, personal protective equipment or disinfectants into circulation (Article 167 of the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offences). The situation when exactly such a case can be brought against a health care worker is quite possible, given the large number of protection equipment offered in online stores with questionable efficiency and safety.

To learn more about a simplified procedure of disinfectants registration, please read this publication.

3. There is a liability for violation of restrictions provided for medical and pharmaceutical workers (Article 44-2 of the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offences). These may be actions related to obtainment of medicines or medical devices from manufacturers of products, or their advertising (coronavirus super-vaccines do not exist). We will talk about the possibilities of advertising medicines during quarantine in one of our following materials.

4. Administrative liability for violation of the quarantine rules for people (Article 44-3 of the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offences). This norm concerns first of all citizens, but also implies responsibility of officials of health care institutions. It provides for heavy fines in the amount of UAH 34,000 - 170,000.

Examples of violations of these rules can be the negligence of health care institutions of the instructions and guidelines of the Ministry of Health on the activities during quarantine, such as the ban on providing routine dental care during quarantine.

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During quarantine, health care managers and health care workers must understand the importance of anticipating and preventing their misconduct.

If you want to be confident in the safety of your activities or need help to protect your rights, don’t hesitate to call us. We will assess the level of your liability in this or that case and suggest measures to prevent government authorities from groundless and vexatious prosecution.

Publication date: 24/04/2020

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