Yesterday, March 30, we celebrated National Doctors Day. This started in 1933 when the public would send greeting cards to doctors or place flowers on the graves of those deceased.
The tribute, respect, and acknowledgment of how they serve our community remain unchanged, even if some outward expressions are different. And that sense of esteem has broadened to include all health care workers.
The complexity of health care has increased tremendously from sophisticated technical issues to a public that has a growing thirst for health-related knowledge in our digital age. That's why I have chosen to take a more active role beyond the usual congratulatory message that doctors and health care workers certainly deserve.
I have recently sponsored a bill, the "Health Care Heroes Violence Prevention Act," that increases penalties for threatening or committing violence against workers in health care facilities.
The pandemic health care workers were five times more likely to suffer a workplace-related injury than other professions.
Health care workers were already five times more likely to suffer a workplace violence injury than other professions before the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated attacks against them. A survey of more than 5,000 registered nurses in September 2021 found that 31% of those working in hospitals faced an increase in workplace violence – up from 22% earlier in the year.
For two years, our nurses, doctors and health care professionals have been on the front line of the COVID pandemic – often putting their health at risk. But sadly, this figurative battlefield has turned literal, with people physically assaulting these essential workers. This is simply unacceptable. Our legislation will send a clear message that we will not tolerate any threats or violence against our dedicated health care workers.
The Health Care Heroes Violence Prevention Act would:
- Raise awareness that assaulting a health care worker is a crime by displaying prominent signage at medical facilities.
- Add penalties of an anger management course (up to 12 hours) and community service (up to 30 days) for persons who assault health care workers.
- Expand the aggravating factors that a court may consider in sentencing someone who assaults a health care worker in the line of duty.
- Create a new disorderly person's offense for threatening a health care worker. This offense would be punishable by imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.
Allow me to be exceedingly clear on this issue and the need for this bill. It will send an unmistakable message that we must treat our health care workers with respect, decency, civility and nothing less.
If I seem somewhat strident about this bill, there are several reasons.
First, who doesn't know a health care worker who wasn't stretched to the limit professionally during the pandemic? Let's not forget that these health care professionals have a personal life and loved ones that they care about, too. Many have suffered the emotional trauma of watching a loved one become sick or even die.
There is also another reason for my legislation. It is fair to say that we will encounter a health care worker without almost any exception in our lifetime. Many already have, and that includes people that we love.
I believe it is important to demonstrate respect, consideration and thoughtfulness toward health care workers. And that includes protecting them from violence in the workplace, which is the intent of my legislation. They have certainly earned it.
That's my take, what's yours?