Oklahoma Sen. Weaver, R-Moore has authored Senate Bill 1290, the Medical Care Provider Protection Act, to protect medical professionals.
Last October, Weaver held an interim study on healthcare professionals and workplace violence. Weaver said despite a career in law enforcement, said he was shocked to learn that 75 percent of all workplace violence happens within the healthcare profession.
“What we heard was disturbing, shocking and unacceptable. It’s everything from verbal abuse, to being spat on, kicked, shoved, slapped and punched. Assaults are underreported and they’re common place in emergency rooms, hospital rooms and the back of ambulances. It can lead to serious injuries and burn-out,” Weaver said. “Our healthcare workers are trying to save lives—they shouldn’t have to worry about being assaulted by the very people they’re trying to help, but it happens all the time.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 80 percent of serious violent incidents reported in healthcare settings are caused by patients. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified contributing factors such as working with patients who have a history of violence or may be delirious or under the influence of drugs. OSHA also points to the perception that violence is tolerated, and reporting incidents will have no effect.
Weaver said SB 1290 includes a four-prong approach to better address medical workplace violence:
- Raise awareness through uniformed signage in medical settings, which will read: WARNING: ASSAULTING A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL WHO IS ENGAGED IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS OR HER OFFICIAL DUTIES IS A SERIOUS CRIME.
- Require the reporting of all assaults on healthcare workers to the State Health Department. The data would be nonidentifiable.
- Create an inclusive listing of specific health care workers that the bill covers.
- Increase the penalty for aggravated assault and battery on a medical care provider from the current range of up to one year to a minimum of two years and a maximum of five.
“This legislation will enable us to collect the data we need to really get a handle on the scope of the problem. It will also help us better educate the public, patients and employees that assaulting a doctor, nurse or any medical worker is a serious crime with serious consequences,” Weaver said.