Michigan moves to combat violence against healthcare workers

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation Dec. 6 that would increase fines for assaults on healthcare workers. 

House Bill 4520 and House Bill 4521 increase fines when these incidents occur while a healthcare professional or medical volunteer is performing their job duties.

Under the legislation, an individual who commits a misdemeanor simple assault faces up to 93 days in prison or a fine of up to $1,000, or both. That fine amount was doubled.

For aggravated assault without a weapon that "inflicts serious or aggravated injury upon that individual without intending to commit murder or to inflict great bodily harm," the punishment is up to one year in prison or a fine of up to $2,000, or both. 

For assault "with a gun, revolver, pistol, knife, iron bar, club, brass knuckles or other dangerous weapon without intending to commit murder or to inflict great bodily harm less than murder," the punishment is up to four years in prison or a fine of up to $4,000, or both. 

There is an exception if the defendant is a patient who is receiving treatment from the victim. 

The legislation also requires healthcare facilities to post a sign about the enhanced fines.

"Healthcare workers face rising rates of bullying and violence," a post on Ms. Whitmer's Facbook page states.

"In Michigan, we can set an example for the nation by treating each other with more grace and kindness. Today's bills will protect healthcare workers and let them know that the state of Michigan has their back.

"Michigan's healthcare workers deserve to feel safe on the job. They care for us when we need it most and we owe them a debt of gratitude."

Healthcare workers told Bridge Michigan they are concerned the patient exception doesn't offer caregivers enough protection. Rep. Mike Mueller, who sponsored one of the bills, said at a hearing in June the exception was made out of consideration for patients who may exhibit violent behavior due to a mental health or substance abuse crisis, according to the report.

The signing of legislation in Michigan comes amid a nationwide push for healthcare worker safety. Hospitals, health systems and states across the U.S. are making efforts to address violence against healthcare workers. These efforts range from a new code of conduct policy to legislation that increases penalties for people convicted of battery of a healthcare provider.

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