Recognizing the high number of incidents of violence against healthcare workers, especially in hospital emergency units, the Massachusetts House is expected to vote on a bill to toughen penalties for anyone who assaults on-duty health care workers. H 1696, which sat in committee for years in the Legislature, would punish individuals who assault nurses, nurse psychologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists with jail sentences between 90 days and 2.5 years or fines up to $5,000. Current law punishes assaults on emergency responders, ambulance operators and ambulance attendants. The Massachusetts Nurses Association, citing a worsening situation, hopes recent high-profile attacks on health care workers will tip the scales in their favor. Some other states have passed or are considering enacting similar legislation.

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