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Joint Committee on Public Safety Holds June 20 Hearing On Bill to Prevent Workplace Violence Against Health Workers

Joint Committee on Public Safety Holds June 20 Hearing On Bill to Prevent Workplace Violence Against Health Workers

Nurses are Assaulted as Much as Police Officers and Prison Guards Yet Most Hospitals Fail to Provide Adequate Polices to Protect Employees

The Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security has scheduled a hearing on Wednesday, June 20 2007, beginning at 10 a.m. for testimony on a bill sponsored by Senator Jarrett Barrios that will require health care providers to provide a comprehensive program to prevent workplace violence along with a counseling program for victims of violence. Workplace violence affects an estimated 1.7 million employees in the U.S. annually and nurses and other personal care workers are at the highest risk. Health care workers suffer violent assaults at a rate four times higher than other industries and for nurses, it is 12 times higher. In a 2004 survey of Massachusetts nurses, 50 percent indicated they had been punched at least once in the last two years; 44 percent reported frequent threats of abuse; and 25 percent were regularly pinched, scratched, spit on or had their hand or wrist twisted. In fact, nurses are assaulted at work on a par with police officers and prison guards. Yet most hospitals and health care employers in the state fail to adequately address the issue of workplace violence and very often provide little or no support to employees who are attacked on the job.

Testifying at the hearing will be provided by experts on the subject and recent victims of workplace violence, including an emergency department nurse at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center who was exposed to HIV and Hepatitis C when a patient swung at her and dislodged an IV line; a nurse from Brockton Hospital who will detail ongoing problems with violence at the facility and the impact on staff recruitment and retention; and a nurse from Taunton State Hospital who had a patient threaten her life, and who has found weapons patients hand-crafted for use on her unit. She will also testify about a number of other nurses who have been assaulted in state-operated facilities, with many suffering serious injuries.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 10 a.m.

State House, Hearing Room B2

David Schildmeier, 781.249.0430 (For more information, background on bill, or  to schedule interviews).