LUGPA Policy Brief: Enhancing Provider Safety

Nov. 17, 2023 

Violence in healthcare settings has surged in recent years, with alarming statistics revealing that around two nurses were assaulted every hour in the second quarter of last year, as per a Press Ganey analysis. Although hospitals and health systems have established protocols to detect and deter violence, these incidents persist, disrupting healthcare operations and increasing stress and burnout among healthcare workers.

The "Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees" (SAVE) Act, introduced by U.S. Representatives Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN) and Madeleine Dean (D-PA), addresses the pressing issue of violence and intimidation against healthcare employees in the United States. This policy brief underscores the significance of enacting the SAVE Act, emphasizing the need for federal protections against violence and intimidation and funding for violence prevention programs and infrastructure improvements.

At present, there is no federal law that specifically protects healthcare employees from assault and intimidation. The SAVE Act, modeled after protections for aircraft and airport workers, aims to close this gap by criminalizing assault or intimidation of healthcare employees while providing safeguards for individuals who may be mentally incapacitated due to illness or substance use.

Despite the urgent need for federal protections, prior attempts to introduce similar regulations have faced challenges. Healthcare and social service workers experienced disproportionately high rates of workplace violence and were five times more likely to be injured at work than the general workforce in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The SAVE Act offers stricter penalties for those who assault or harass healthcare workers, with provisions for "reasonable defense" in cases where patients are mentally incapacitated due to illness or substance use.

Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have introduced an updated version of the SAVE Act in the Senate, proposing making assaults on healthcare workers a federal crime with enhanced penalties for assaults resulting in serious bodily injury.

While healthcare worker unions and national healthcare associations have expressed support for federal efforts to enhance penalties for violence against healthcare workers, these initiatives have encountered obstacles, even though nearly 40 states have enacted similar laws.

In addition to the SAVE Act, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has also introduced the "Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act," which assigns the Occupational Safety and Health Administration the task of creating violence prevention measures for healthcare and social service workplaces. Regrettably, this legislation failed to advance.

In the absence of federal regulations, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have called on hospitals to take responsibility for safeguarding their staff. However, federal protections must be enacted to ensure the safety and well-being of healthcare employees nationwide.

The SAVE Act, with provisions mirroring protections for aircraft and airport workers, marks a significant step toward reducing violence against medical employees. By providing federal protections against violence and intimidation and supporting violence prevention programs and infrastructure improvements, the SAVE Act enhances the safety and security of healthcare workers, ultimately promoting better patient care and reducing stress and burnout in the healthcare workforce.



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