“The protection of healthcare professionals from civil and criminal liability in times of Covid-19 represents an important multidimensional problem that affects multiple aspects of healthcare in the course of a pandemic, with reference to the extraordinary clinical-epidemiological characteristics of the completely new and unknown disease , the emergency modalities of assistance to patients, the organization of services, the timeliness and effectiveness of the treatments, the delay in diagnosis and treatment of other non-Covid-19 pathologies (often forgotten or neglected of necessity in the face of the pandemic emergency) and , “Last but not least”, to the medical and managerial responsibilities connected to an extensive and in some respects innovative vaccination campaign “. This was stated by Marco Piemonte, president of the Italian College of Surgeons, according to which the recent DL approved by the Council of Ministers on 31 March 2021 has given deserved attention to the criminal protection of operators assigned to anti-Covid vaccinations, limiting however the punishment only to cases of willful misconduct and gross negligence and not the criminal prosecution of the operator with all that negative consequences. “If an objective is achieved, however, the absolute inadequacy of the legislative provision cannot be ignored, which covers and protects only vaccination responsibility and completely neglects the other aforementioned problems of criminal and civil liability determined by the pandemic emergency since its appearance” , explains Piemonte.
A consideration that emerged during a web conference of the Italian College of Surgeons (Cic) on the subject of “Health Responsibility and Covid”, which was attended as qualified speakers by personalities from the medical, legal, political and administrative world.
From a legal point of view, the speakers (D. Pittella, R. Calvo, G. Facci, C. Cupelli and VD Greco) underlined the important limits of Law 24/2017 (the so-called Gelli-Bianco law) in the criminal field and the its still current incompleteness in civil and insurance matters, pending the approval of some implementing decrees, and also affirmed the absolute need for a further and broader legislative intervention adequate to cover all the problems of the pandemic emergency “ab initio “. This legislative intervention would assume a clear and univocal “political message” in favor of health workers (once defined as “angels” and “heroes” and then promptly forgotten or even vilified).
The “public” part of the NHS, represented by the president of FederSanità, Tiziana Frittelli, also testified not only to the medico-legal risks for individual health professionals (now particularly acute in the Covid-19 period, but present “regardless” in the activities assistance as always), but also the serious danger that foreseeable legal disputes and requests for compensation have a heavy impact on the Health Trusts and on the National Care Fund and therefore, ultimately, could compromise the efficiency itself (if not even the economic survival) of the NHS.
These messages, firmly shared by the surgeons attending the conference, were immediately collected by the Undersecretary of Justice, Francesco Paolo Sisto, and by the other political exponents present as speakers, including Cosimo Ferri, Carmelo Miceli and Carmelo Misti who represented the profound interest of the institutions and their respective parties in seeking concrete and extensive legislative solutions in the short term.
In particular, among the possible “political” initiatives considered to be of pre-eminent importance today in order to guarantee effective protection of healthcare professionals against criminal and civil liability during the Covid-19 emergency, those that provide for the direct involvement of the State with legislative definition of a compensation program for Covid-19 victims; the modification of the regime introduced by the Gelli-Bianco law regarding the criminal liability of the healthcare worker with the return of the regime, more favorable for the doctor, introduced by the Balduzzi decree; the achievement of concrete legislative results in a short time, probably favored by the current emergency government formula with a very large majority and with multi-party political support.
The interest of the political world to actively engage in the issue of health responsibility with measures that go beyond the simple “vaccination” protection, clearly emerged from the interventions at the conference and also confirmed by a timely statement by the Minister of Health Roberto Speranza, offers reasons of precious comfort to health workers who – in such a difficult and dramatic period of the NHS – see new and concrete hopes of finally achieving in a short time a clear and undisputed goal in this area.