January 1, 2018
The Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) approved the following Statement on the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act (UEVHPA) at its October 2017 meeting in San Diego, CA. The original statement was developed by the Board of Governors Committee on Socioeconomic Issues in collaboration with Operation Giving Back, and was approved by the Board of Regents in October 2008. The statement was recently revised by the Board of Governors Surgical Care Delivery Workgroup.
In 2006, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws adopted a model bill to address the issue of health care practitioners providing care during a declared emergency in states where they may not be licensed to practice. The UEVHPA was developed in response to the significant legal and licensing barriers to volunteer physicians and health care practitioners who would like to provide care in times of a declared emergency.
In 2007, the ACS Board of Governors’ Committee on Socioeconomic Issues and the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors discussed and endorsed the UEVHPA at the Executive Committee’s annual meeting and agreed that the College should aggressively and vocally support the act.
The UEVHPA establishes legal guidelines to allow volunteers to provide assistance during a time of declared emergency by recognizing other states’ licenses for physicians and health care practitioners. Whereas federal provisions for interstate cooperation do not extend to most private practitioners, the UEVHPA calls for the creation of a registration system that out-of-state practitioners may use either before or during a disaster. Upon successful registration, practitioners are expressly permitted to contribute their professional skills to existing organized disaster efforts. In addition, the Act addresses issues of workers’ compensation coverage and civil liability protections for physicians and other licensed health care practitioners.
Physicians are uniquely qualified to assist during disasters. Surgeons, in particular, with their training in trauma and critical care, play a major role in the health care community’s response to most disaster situations. Properly trained volunteers are critical in such circumstances.
By enacting the UEVHPA, state legislatures can have a positive impact on disaster response effectiveness. Removing barriers that prohibit licensed surgeons and other qualified responders from traveling across state lines to voluntarily administer medically necessary care during disasters will ensure the citizens of their state have access to high-quality surgical services in the event of a crisis.
The ACS Board of Regents supports enactment of the UEVHPA in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.