Attacks on North Carolina hospital workers will now be felonies

Starting Dec. 1, people who attack hospital workers in North Carolina could be charged with a felony, thanks to a new state law.

The News & Observer reported that the new law passed by "large margins" in both houses and was signed into law last month.

In one North Carolina health system, Raleigh-based WakeMed, there were 81 attacks on hospital employees across the system last year.

Violence against healthcare workers is an issue that looms large across the nation, not just in North Carolina: Attacks on healthcare and social service workers made up almost 75 percent of all workplace violence from 2011 to 2013 in the U.S., according to numbers from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration cited by The News & Observer.

Opponents say the law could have an unintended effect on patients with mental illnesses, as many attacks on healthcare workers happen because of substance abuse or mental illnesses, according to the report.

Supporters maintain that the law is aimed at making a safe environment for patients and staff in hospitals.

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