House of Representatives members Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) and Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) have introduced the Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees Act (SAVE Act), which would give health care workers the same legal protections against assault and intimidation that Federal law affords flight crews and airport workers. The SAVE Act provides legal penalties for those who knowingly and intentionally attack hospital employees (with some protections for perpetrators who are mentally incapacitated by illness or substance use).
GNYHA strongly supports the SAVE Act and encourages members to ask their House members to cosponsor the bill as well.
While hospitals and health systems have had historical protocols in place to deter aggression against staff, the number of violent attacks against health care workers has risen steadily in recent years—with the COVID-19 pandemic fueling a significant uptick. According to recent studies, 44% of nurses say they were subjected to physical violence and 68% reported verbal abuse. The impact of workplace violence ripples beyond the individual caregiver, who could suffer from both physical and psychological trauma, and can disrupt the ability of the facility at large to deliver care to patients. Nurses, doctors, and other caregivers cannot provide optimal care when they fear for their personal safety or are distracted by troublesome patients or visitors. Workplace violence also wastes valuable, potentially lifesaving resources, raises the potential for adverse medical events, and reduces patient satisfaction and employee productivity, according to studies.
According to the SAVE Act bill text, those who assault or intimidate hospital employees face up to 10 years in prison, with enhanced penalties, including up to 20 years in prison, for perpetrators who inflict bodily injury.
The SAVE Act would also provide grants for hospital programs to reduce the incidence of violence in care settings. Hospitals could use these grants to train personnel, coordinate with state and local law enforcement, and purchase equipment or technology to foster a safer environment.