State Rep. Hank Vaupel testified today before the House Judiciary Committee in support of his plan to better protect medical personnel from abuse.
Vaupel, of Fowlerville, said Michigan hospitals have reported a significant increase in the number of violent encounters with patients and their visitors, creating a need for stronger protections. His plan would stiffen penalties for people who assault health care workers.
“Workplace violence is a real and growing threat to our health care providers, and it must be taken seriously,” Vaupel said. “Strengthening penalties will demonstrate that violence is not tolerated in hospitals and other health care facilities in Michigan.”
Health care workers in the United States suffer more than 15,000 injuries each year due to workplace violence, according to a 2015 report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In the study, 21 percent of nurses reported being physically assaulted and more than 50 percent reported verbal abuse.
House Bills 4327-28 add health care professionals and medical volunteers to a protected group of workers that already includes police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel. Assaulting one of these protected professionals could result in a felony with enhanced penalties.
“Just like first responders, our health care workers have an obligation to help people. More and more often, that means putting their own safety on the line,” Vaupel said. “We must do more to ensure violence against medical personnel is taken seriously.”
Assaulting a health care worker is considered a felony in 32 other states.
The plan remains under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee.