8 Groups Endorse Legislation Protecting Healthcare Workers

22 Jun, 2022 Liz Carey


Washington, D.C. (WorkersCompensation.com) – The American Hospital Association, and seven other national hospital organizations endorsed a bill introduced in early June to protect healthcare workers from violence.   

The bill, the Safety From Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act, introduced June 7 by U.S. Reps. Madelaine Dean, D-Pa., and Dr. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., would give healthcare workers the same protections offered to aircraft and airport workers.  

Citing an increase in violence against healthcare workers in recent years, the two Congress members said the toll of workplace violence on healthcare workers can be immense and not only cause physical and psychological harm, but also create disruptions in hospitals and prevent hospital staff from providing the best possible care.   

“Violence in hospitals has been growing with increasing frequency for years,” Dean said. “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.” 

The Congress members said there is not currently any federal law that protects hospital employees from assault and/or intimidation. The SAVE Act, modeled after protections enacted last year for aircraft and airport workers, would criminalize assault or intimidation of hospital employees. The Congress members said the legislation did offer protections for those who may be mentally incapacitated due to illness or substance use.   

“As a practicing physician for more than 15 years, I know just how critical to patient care it is that we work to ensure that hospitals are safe environments,” Bucshon said. “Unfortunately, over the past few years, there have been increased incidences of violence taking place at our hospitals. These rising levels of violence negatively impact the ability of our nation’s physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals – who are currently experiencing record levels of stress and burnout – to provide quality care for their patients. The SAVE Act will put in place legal protections to help deter violence insider our nation’s hospitals and keep these vital institutions safe and secure for patients and our nation’s health care professionals.”   

According to the National Institute of Health, studies indicate that between 24 and 80 percent of health care workers in acute psychiatric units have been assaulted by a patient at some point in their careers.   

In 2019, Schipp Ames, vice president of communications, education and member services for the South Carolina Hospital Association told the American Journal of Managed Care that workplace violence in hospitals is a daily occurrence following two incidents of hospital shootings in South Carolina within two days. 

“Within 48 hours we had 2 hospital shootings in South Carolina. Something like that happens once and everybody’s antenna goes up,” Ames said. “I’ve been asked the question, ‘how often does this happen?’ and I think I shocked the reporter from South Carolina who asked. I said, 'This happens every day whether its physical or verbal assault. It just so happens that this time the gun was a weapon, but in the past it’s been a towel rack that was ripped off the wall and used to beat a nurse.' These were very deadly and very dangerous incidents that involved guns, so they got more attention, but I think a lot of folks don’t realize how much doctors and nurses jeopardize their own safety every day when they make that vow to go and serve patients.”  

Law makers, and hospital groups, hope the enhanced penalties for those who knowingly assault or intimidate healthcare workers will help to stem the violence.   

“While our members have for many years had protocols in place attempting to protect their employees, the number of violent attacks against health care workers has increased steadily in recent years, with a sharp uptick during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter from medical organizations said. “Recent studies indicate that in the last two years, 44% of nurses reported being subject to physical violence and 68% reported verbal abuse. These experiences impact the individual caregiver, who may suffer from both physical and psychological trauma, and they can also disrupt care when providers fear for their personal safety, are distracted by disruptive patients or family members, or are traumatized from prior violent interactions.”  

The legislation would also provide funding for hospitals to increase protections.   

“Workers who dedicate themselves to saving lives deserve a safe environment – free of violence and intimidation – in which to deliver care,” AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack said. “The surge in assaults against the health care workforce cannot continue and we must do everything we can to protect them. Our workforce is enduring historic levels of stress and violence as they continue to provide compassionate, quality care throughout the pandemic. Hospitals and health systems are committed to ensuring a safe work environment for our employees. We will not let up in ensuring that all hospital and health system workers feel safe in the vital work they perform.”  

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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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