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Am J Disaster Med. 2008 Jan-Feb;3(1):17-23.

Deploying and using volunteer health practitioners in response to emergencies: proposed uniform state legislation provides liability protections and workers' compensation coverage.

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  • 1American Public Health Association, Washington, DC, USA.


To respond effectively to natural disasters and other public health emergencies, government resources must be augmented with the resources of volunteer organizations. Governmental actors are prepared to utilize volunteer health practitioners (VHPs) to meet patient surge capacity and provide essential public health services. However, difficult legal challenges arise regarding licensure, the scope of practice of volunteers, the relationship of volunteers to local healthcare delivery systems, disciplinary enforcement, the extent of exposure to civil liability, and how to provide compensation for volunteers injured or killed during disaster response activities. The Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioner Act (UEVHPA) seeks to address these problems and provide a better legal environment that facilitates VHPs efforts. This article discusses two important provisions of the UEVHPA, Section 11 which provides immunity against claims for negligence, under certain circumstances, for volunteers and organizations engaged in the deployment and use of volunteers, and Section 12 which provides workers' compensation benefits to VHPs when other sources of coverage are not available. Disaster relief organizations and healthcare provider organizations have consistently identified uncertainty and a lack of uniformity with respect to these issues as a major source of concern to volunteer practitioners and as a potential deterrent to their effective recruitment and utilization. Uniform state enactment of the UEVHPA would resolve many inconsistencies and gaps in the regulation and protection of VHPs across states.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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