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Amid rising violence, lawmakers push for healthcare worker protections

Healthcare leaders say the state legislation needs to pass a measure to stop escalating violence.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Violence toward healthcare workers is on the rise. The rate of injuries from violent attacks against medical professionals jumped 63% from 2011 to 2018.

Now, healthcare leaders are saying this escalation in violence needs to be stopped. Advocates are hoping the state legislature will now approve a bill they believe will help protect workers.

“We can say that healthcare violence happens on, perhaps every day, every hour, every minute,” said Nancy Lamonica, vice president and chief nursing officer at Bristol Hospital. 

Healthcare workers account for 73% of all non-fatal workforce illnesses and injuries, related to violence in the workplace, something Tiara Brown has experienced firsthand.

“I've been spit on, punched in the face, and most recently I've been kicked in the chest,” Brown said. “I've also been threatened to be raped and killed by patients.”

A nurse for 14 years, Brown said her situation is not unique. 

“Another healthcare worker that I've worked with has been punched in the face and in the head multiple times by various patients leading to multiple concussions,” she continued.

Healthcare leaders said employees are fearful for their safety, some are even unwilling to return to work, at a time when the medical profession is already facing workforce shortages.

“Workplace violence has severe consequences for the entire healthcare system,” said the director of clinical excellence and care redesign at the Connecticut Hospital Association, Ellen Crowe.

Those at Wednesday’s press conference said one of the ways to quell this violence is with the legislature’s help.

“You cared about patient safety and it's time for you to take a look and care about workplace environment safety,” added Lamonica.

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This bill would provide $5 million for hospitals to improve security measures, establish a state marketing campaign to educate the public about the mistreatment of healthcare workers and allow hospital facilities to establish policies and procedures related to healthcare providers, staff, and patient safety.

“We just can't keep collecting data anymore,” said Deb Martin, a nurse with Hartford Healthcare. “We need to take action.”

This measure already passed unanimously out of the Public Health Committee. Wednesday, lawmakers said they’re pushing the House to take up and vote on this bill next week.

Emma Wulfhorst is a political reporter for FOX61 News. She can be reached at ewulfhorst@fox61.com. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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