Minnesota Responds Medical Reserve Corps will have workers’ compensation and liability coverage when volunteering for disasters, under a new law signed April 17 by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Sponsored by Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) and Sen. Linda Higgins (DFL-Mpls), the law, funded by a federal grant, gives certain registered health professionals the coverage. If they are called to a disaster outside their jurisdiction by the health commissioner, they are also covered by state workers’ compensation and liability policies.
The law is effective April 18, 2008.
According to a Health Department fact sheet: “Recent disasters have highlighted inconsistencies in volunteer protections leading to uncertainty among volunteers and local coordinators.”
As of 2007 there are more than 7,000 volunteers in the program, and “people want to volunteer during a disaster, but recognize they need clear liability and workers compensation protections because of the inherent dangers in deployment during disasters,” the fact sheet states.
Under the new law, when the corps participates under the Interstate Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a political subdivision or its officers and employees are not liable for any act or omission made in good faith for the maintenance or use of any equipment or supplies used in connection with the assistance.
The law also allows for health professionals from other states who are registered in the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals to practice in Minnesota while an emergency declaration is in effect.
Participating boards of health in the corps can enter into written aid agreements for deployment of paid employees and receive funding for emergency preparedness or pandemic influenza planning from the state or federal government, under the law.
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