The Emergency Nurses Association expressed disappointment in California Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to veto AB 172, legislation that would have increased penalties for violence against healthcare personnel committed within an ED, according to a statement released by the ENA. “We are disappointed in the governor’s veto as we worked tirelessly in hopes that California would become the 33rd state to increase penalties for workplace violence, recognizing that violence directed at emergency nurses should never be tolerated,” said ENA President Matthew F. Powers, BSN, MS, RN, MICP, CEN, in the statement.
Under current California law, an assault or battery against a physician or nurse rendering emergency medical care outside of a hospital, clinic or healthcare facility is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, one year of jail time or both. However, if an assault or battery occurs inside the healthcare facility, the crime is punishable with a maximum of six months in jail. Had AB 172 passed, the bill would have made penalties for a battery committed against a physician, nurse or other healthcare worker of a hospital engaged in providing services within the ED similar to those committed outside of hospital grounds. “We believe emergency healthcare providers should be afforded the same protection against workplace violence inside a healthcare facility as they are outside,” said the ENA statement. “This bill was unanimously passed by both the California State Assembly and Senate earlier this year.”
According to a statement from Gov. Brown to the California State Assembly, the governor does not believe a longer sentence for such offenses would be a deterrent to offenders. “Emergency rooms are overcrowded and often chaotic,” Gov. Brown said in the statement. “I have great respect for the work done by emergency room staff and I recognize the daunting challenges they face every day. If there were evidence that an additional six months in county jail (three months, once good-time credits are applied) would enhance the safety of these workers or serve as a deterrent, I would sign this bill. I doubt that it would do either.”
The ENA stated that research released in the Journal of Emergency Nursing shows more than 70% of emergency nurses encountered physical or verbal assault by patients or visitors while they were providing care in the emergency setting. Several factors such as long wait times, patient boarding, patients with a history of violence and patients under the influence of drugs or alcohol significantly contributed to the violence, according to the journal.
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