Lawmakers move to better protect healthcare workers from violence, assault

Violence against healthcare workers is a subject recently highlighted by healthcare organizations across the U.S., which are asking patients to show kindness and patience to staff. It's also picking up steam among state legislators, who are introducing bills to protect healthcare staff.

Warner Thomas, president and CEO of New Orleans-based Ochsner Health, is calling on the Louisiana state legislature to make violence against healthcare workers a felony after a nurse was attacked Jan. 28 at one of the health system's hospitals.

Lawmakers in some states are already acting to better protect healthcare workers. Here are initiatives in four states: 


Oregon

In Oregon, lawmakers will consider House Bill 4142, which would make it a crime of assault in the third degree for a person to intentionally, knowingly or recklessly physically injure a hospital worker while the worker is performing official duties. The punishment would be a maximum of five years in prison, a $125,000 fine, or both.

State Reps. Shelly Boshart Davis and Sheri Schouten are chief sponsors of the legislation, which is currently with the House Committee on Judiciary. 


Utah

Utah lawmakers in the state House passed House Bill 32 Feb.1 relating to the assault of an owner, employee or contractor of a healthcare facility. The legislation, which now moves to the state Senate, would enhance penalties for assault or threat of violence against healthcare facility workers.

Under the legislation, assault or threat of violence against such workers while they are performing their duties would be a class A misdemeanor, and it would be a third-degree felony if the perpetrator "acts intentionally or knowingly" and the attack "causes substantial bodily injury."


Michigan

Two bills have been introduced in Michigan: House Bill 5682 and House Bill 5084. House Bill 5682 states that if someone assaults an emergency room worker, and the violation happened while the worker was performing official duties, then that person would be guilty of a misdemeanor with maximum punishment of 93 days, a $1,000 fine, or both.

A person who assaults an emergency room worker without a weapon and inflicts serious harm without the intent to kill would be punishable to a maximum one year in prison, a $2,000 fine, or both.

A person who assaults an emergency room worker with a dangerous weapon without the intent to murder could receive up to four years in prison, a $4,000 fine, or both.

House Bill 5084 states that an employer would be able to post a sign that says it's a felony to assault a person who works in an emergency room and that the person is allowed to perform his or her duties.

The bills are sponsored by state Reps. Mike Mueller and Ben Frederick.


Maryland

In Maryland, House Bill 0267 is being considered, which would make it illegal for someone to threaten a public health official with the intent to intimidate, interfere with or impede that worker from fulfilling official duties. That person would be guilty of a misdemeanor and could be imprisoned for up to 90 days, a fine of up to $500 or both.

The bill is sponsored by 10 delegates in the state.

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