8 bills tackling healthcare violence

As the American Hospital Association advocates for national protections for healthcare workers facing violence and intimidation, here are eight pending legal efforts aimed at ensuring safety for this sector's employees. 

1. Federal: 35 legislators co-sponsor a bill introduced in February 2021 called the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act . The legislation looks to have a national standard prevention plan for workplace violence in healthcare settings. 

The bill passed a House vote two months later and currently sits in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. 

2. Federal: Another bill focusing on protecting healthcare employees from violence was introduced in June. A week after it was filed, eight hospital groups voiced their support. If passed, the Safety From Violence for Healthcare Employees Act would criminalize assault or intimidation of hospital employees. It would also offer legal penalties for individuals who knowingly and intentionally commit these acts.

The SAVE Act is modeled after similar laws for airport and flight workers, and it now sits in the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

3. New Jersey: On Feb. 2, the state's senate passed a bill, known as the Health Care Heroes Violence Prevention Act, that looks to "increase the penalties for those convicted of threats or violence against healthcare workers," according to an assembly news release

If signed into law, some threats would be tagged as a disorderly persons offense, and those found guilty of this law could face up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. 

4. Oregon: If a bill is passed, people who intentionally or recklessly injure a hospital worker on duty could be charged with third-degree assault and could face up to five years in prison, a $125,000 fine or, in some cases, both. 

The tentative law was passed by the state's house and currently waits for a senate vote. 

5. Michigan: A bill sitting in committee aims to increase "fines for simple assault, aggravated assault and assault with a deadly weapon if the victim is a health professional or medical volunteer" who is working "at the time of the crime." If passed, these acts would count as a misdemeanor and can cost offenders up to 93 days in prison, a $500 fine or both. 

6. Michigan: The state's legislature also introduced a bill that seeks to allow employers to post a sign stating that it is a felony to assault someone who works in an emergency room while they are performing his or her duties. It is now in the state's Government Operations committee. 

7. Vermont: A bill aims to allow a police officer to arrest someone without a warrant if there is "probable cause to believe the person assaulted or threatened a healthcare worker at a healthcare facility or engaged in disorderly conduct that interfered with the provision of medically necessary health care services in a healthcare facility."

On Feb. 1, 10 witnesses from the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems urged their representatives to pass the bill as they recounted stories of being punched, sexually harassed, choked, kicked and spit on, VTDigger reported. Jill Maynard, RN director of emergency nursing at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, said a patient threatened to stalk her.

So far, it has gone through three senate committee meetings, according to Vermont's legislature site. 

8. Maryland: The legislation has not seen any updates since its first reading more than a year ago, but if it picks up speed again, the bill seeks to make threats against public health officials and hospital staff members a criminal law. People found guilty of this offense would face up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $500 or both.

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