Last Updated: Jun 12, 2019
A Pa. bill aims to shield health care workers from workplace violence by raising the penalty for assault on a health care practitioner, while in the performance of duty where there is bodily injury, from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a felony of the second degree.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve the bill – Senate Bill (SB) 351, introduced by Sen. Judy Ward – on June 5, 2019. It is now being considered by the full Senate.
In a letter sent to Senate Judiciary Committee members on June 5, The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) expressed our support for SB 351. We believe that increasing the penalty for assault against health care workers will serve as a deterrent.
Currently, Pa. state law provides protection for EMS personnel, such as doctors, residents, interns, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and several other professions who work in emergency services. However, it does not include “health care practitioners” – i.e. any health care professional who has a license, permit, or certificate from the state’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. SB 351 would close that loophole and include health care practitioners as a protected class under the law.
“Job-related violence against health care workers accounts for over 10 percent of all workplace violence incidents in the United States,” said PAMED Board Chair John Gallagher, MD in the letter. “Despite being more ‘at risk’ of workplace violence, the penalties for these crimes do not protect them as the special class that they are.”