Proposed bill would protect healthcare workers like airline staff

U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., and Larry Bucshon, MD, R-Ind., introduced a bill June 7 to protect healthcare workers from violence that is modeled after existing protections for aircraft and airport workers.

The Safety From Violence for Healthcare Employees Act would criminalize assault or intimidation of hospital employees and provide legal penalties for individuals who knowingly and intentionally do so, the lawmakers said in a news release. There would be protections for those who may be mentally incapacitated due to illness or substance use. 

"Violence in hospitals has been growing with increasing frequency for years," Ms. Dean said in the release. "This legislation will take the important step to enhance the criminal penalty for someone who knowingly and intentionally enters a hospital and assaults an employee. These tireless heroes deserve protections to ensure they are not victimized while trying to save lives."

Dr. Bucshon expressed similar sentiments in the release, adding that the rising levels of violence hurt the ability of physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals to provide quality care for their patients.

The bill "will put in place legal protections to help deter violence inside our nation's hospitals and keep these vital institutions safe and secure for patients and our nation's healthcare professionals," he said.

The proposed Safety From Violence for Healthcare Employees Act comes amid a series of violent incidents on hospital campuses nationwide. 

In March, the American Hospital Association brought the group's concerns about violence against healthcare workers to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and urged the Justice Department to support protections for healthcare workers similar to those the department backed for flight crews and airport workers.

In addition to the AHA, the Safety From Violence for Healthcare Employees Act is also supported by the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, the Indiana Hospital Association, and the Indiana Organization for Nursing Leadership, according to the representatives' release.

In the U.S. Senate, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., has also introduced legislation requiring healthcare and social service employers to implement a workplace violence prevention plan to avoid and reduce workplace violence against employees.

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