Roundtable with Rep. Dean Highlights Efforts to Enhance Health Care Worker Safety
Discussion focuses on legislation to address rising violence against health professionals
Pottstown, PA (August 15, 2022) – U.S. Representative Madeleine Dean met today with staff and leaders at Pottstown Hospital – Tower Health and health care advocates to learn more about the rise in violence and abuse against health care workers throughout the nation.
Dean is championing legislation to deter violence and abuse against health professionals by making it a federal crime to assault or intimidate hospital employees. The Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act is modeled after similar protections already in place for aircraft and airport workers.
“Health care workers serve our communities every day with selflessness, yet misinformation and shameful ignorance has increased violence and intimidation in hospitals. So, today I joined Pottstown Hospital - Tower Health to learn more about their experiences on the ground,” Representative Dean said. “I introduced the SAVE Act in June with my colleague, Congressman Buschon, to make violence and intimidation of health care workers a federal crime—and to provide protection that our health care workers deserve.”
During today’s roundtable discussion at Pottstown Hospital, Dean heard directly from health professionals about the challenges they face on the job.
“We really want to create an environment for our staff that is safe and free from abuse and workplace violence,” said Ann Blankenhorn, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, vice president, nursing clinical practice and education and Center for Patient Safety, Tower Health. “The SAVE Act elevates this issue to show our staff—and all health care professionals—that this is so important.”
Violence and abuse targeting health care professionals is on the rise throughout Pennsylvania and nationally. Hospital workers were six times more likely to suffer a workplace violence injury than people working in other professions during 2020, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. In a recent survey of Pennsylvania hospitals by The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), 77 percent of responding hospitals reported a significant rise in violence against emergency room staff.
“There’s no one-solution fix for violence and abuse against health care workers,” said Chris Chamberlain, MS, RN, CHEP, HAP's vice president, emergency management. “We need to work to prevent these incidents from happening and respond to them when they do. This bill addresses both of these things. Most importantly, it affirms that violence and abuse towards health professionals is never OK.”
Also participating in the discussion were P. Sue Perrotty, president and CEO, Tower Health; Rich Newell, president and CEO, Pottstown and Phoenixville hospitals; Jason Kleinman, senior associate director, federal relations, American Hospital Association (AHA); and Rosa Hickey, chief nursing officer, WellSpan Surgery and Rehabilitation Hospital, representing the Pennsylvania Organization of Nurse Leaders.
Video interviews with roundtable participants and b-roll available for use by news media. Files may be downloaded online.
Background: Pennsylvania hospitals have been increasing efforts and investments to prioritize staff safety and, during 2020, successfully advocated for Pennsylvania to make it a felony to assault a health care worker and protect workers’ identities by allowing last names to be omitted from ID badges. But this work is far from over.
HAP and the AHA support the SAVE Act, which Dean introduced during June along with Representative Larry Bucshon, MD, of Indiana. The bill would help improve safety for health care professionals by:
- Establishing federal, criminal penalties for those who knowingly assault and intimidate hospital employees, including enhanced penalties for use of a dangerous weapon that results in injury and acts committed during a public emergency, as well as exceptions for individuals who may be mentally incapacitated due to illness or substance use. This is modeled after federal protections already in place for aircraft and airport workers.
- Authorizing $25 million in grant funding over 10 years to reduce violence and intimidation in hospitals.