- Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. on Tuesday introduced the latest iteration of the Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees Act, which would make assaulting healthcare workers in hospitals a federal crime with enhanced penalties for assaults that result in serious bodily injury.
- Healthcare and social service workers face the highest rates of workplace violence and were five times as likely to get injured at work than workers overall as of 2018, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Violence intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching a rate of two attacks on nursing personnel each hour in the second quarter of 2022, according to an analysis last year by Press Ganey.
- Despite a documented uptick in violence and accompanying pleas from healthcare associations for federal protections, previous efforts to introduce similar federal regulation, including a version of the SAVE Act that was introduced into the House last year, have failed to advance.
The legislation, which mirrors protections for aircraft and airport workers, would create stronger penalties for those who assault or harass hospital workers in hopes of deterring violence against hospital employees. The bill provides a clause of “reasonable defense” if a patient is mentally incapacitated due to illness or substance use.
In a statement endorsing the Senate’s version of the SAVE Act introduced this week, American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack stressed the importance of passing the legislation.
“The sharp rise in violence against caregivers is clearly documented, yet no federal law exists to protect them,” Pollack said. “Enactment of this bipartisan legislation would be a significant step forward in protecting our workforce.”
Although nearly 40 states have passed laws to increase penalties for violence against healthcare workers, according to a statement from Manchin, similar federal legislation has faced significant headwinds despite support from both healthcare worker unions and national hospital associations.
Last year, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., introduced the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, backed by labor groups, that tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with creating violence prevention measure requirements for healthcare and social service workplaces. When the legislation failed to advance in 2022, Baldwin reintroduced it this April, where it has since stalled.
Absent federal regulations, the CMS has urged hospitals to protect their staff.
“It is incumbent on the leadership at these healthcare facilities to ensure they provide adequate training, sufficient staffing levels, and ongoing assessment of patients and residents for aggressive behavior and indicators to adapt their care interventions and environment appropriately,” the agency said in a memo released last year.