For Immediate Release - July 02, 2010


Increased penalties for harming health care workers who are treating or transporting patients

BOSTON -- Friday, July 2, 2010 -- Demonstrating the Patrick-Murray Administration's continued support for health care professionals, Governor Deval Patrick today signed into law an Act Relative to Assault and Battery on Health Care Providers, which will increase penalties against individuals who attempt to harm doctors, nurses, social workers, or EMT and ambulance personnel.

"This law gives us the tools to further protect the many health care professionals who work tirelessly to ensure the care of all Commonwealth residents," said Governor Patrick.

The bill amends existing law to create enhanced penalties for the existing crimes of assault, and assault and battery on an EMT or ambulance personnel acting in the line of duty, to include all health care providers, such as doctors, nurses and social workers. The bill also mandates a minimum sentence of 90 days (up to 2.5 years) or a minimum fine of $500 (up to $5,000), but does not prohibit a suspended sentence.

"Health care workers are regularly in situations where they can face risks related to their personal safety," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. "This law will help ensure both their physical safety and peace of mind."

"This law is an effective tool in the prevention of violence," said Public Safety and Security Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan. "It's a common sense measure that ensures the full extent of the justice system is available to protect workers who work to save lives."

"Violence and abuse in a workplace should never be tolerated," said Attorney General Martha Coakley. "In certain industries such as health care, we need to ensure strong protections for employees who face an increased risk of assault, and this bill takes a big step forward to help better protect nurses and other health care professionals at work. I applaud Governor Patrick as well as the bill's advocates and legislative co-sponsors for their efforts on this important issue."

"This is a day that I and many others have been working towards for some time, and I am very proud to see it come," said Sen. Michael O. Moore. "Our nurses must overcome daunting obstacles in the course of their daily work, as they care for patients and save lives. I filed this bill to address what has unfortunately become a pervasive problem for nurses, particularly in Emergency Rooms: physical assault. This bill, which has been filed every session for six years, will lead to corrective action being taken against those who would harm a nurse on the job, and it will communicate to the public and the medical community the severity of this problem.

"The signing of this legislation today is a culmination of hard work by many people over the years to protect front-line health care workers," said Representative Michael J. Rodrigues. "I applaud Governor Patrick for joining us in sending a message that violence against nurses and other health care professionals cannot and will not be tolerated."

According to 2004 guidelines for "Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care & Social Service Workers," published by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, nurses and other personal care workers suffer violent assaults at a rate 12 times higher than other industries.

"We are pleased that Governor Patrick is signing HB 1696 today," said Donna Kelly-Williams, RN, President of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. "We applaud the Governor and the legislature's support for the this bill as it recognizes the increasing levels of violence that nurses are facing on the job, and it represents an essential first step toward treating this kind of crime more seriously."

"All health care workers in many settings are at high risk for workplace violence. This legislation begins to address this concern by extending additional penalties for assault and battery against healthcare workers in hospitals, nursing homes and community health centers," said Veronica Turner, Executive Vice President of 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU). "In signing H.1696, Governor Patrick is providing important new protections for the many thousands of 1199 SEIU members providing hands-on care in these settings."