Wisconsin moves toward making threats to healthcare workers a felony

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | March 03, 2022
Risk Management
The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a bill that calls for making threats to healthcare workers a felony.
With bipartisan support, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill on Wednesday that would make it a felony to threaten healthcare workers in the state.

The vote passed with no debate and will now head to the Senate. If passed there, it will then head to Governor Tony Evers' desk to be signed into law.

Under the new law, healthcare workers could not be threatened when at work or in reaction to something that happened at a healthcare facility. Anyone found guilty of doing so faces up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The legislation also applies to family members of healthcare providers, according to The Associated Press.

Additionally, the proposal creates a new felony crime of battery against a healthcare provider and expands current law to make it a felony to commit battery against a nurse, an emergency medical care provider or an individual who works in an emergency department.

Healthcare providers showed their support for the legislation earlier this month at a public hearing where they discussed stories of how patients have threatened doctors and others who have attempted to care for them. More than two dozen healthcare and law enforcement organizations have rallied behind the measure, including the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA), SSM Health and the Marshfield Clinic Health Care System.

“Unfortunately, providers and staff in our hospitals are reaching their limits. Growing threats being made against them and their families are forcing them to prioritize their personal safety over the increasing danger they face doing what they love. Sadly, healthcare workers are leaving their jobs at an alarming rate, exacerbating a workforce shortage in our state that predated today’s challenging environment,” WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding said in a statement earlier this month.

Attacks against healthcare workers are considered an epidemic, with federal data saying that healthcare workers are nine times more likely to be a victim of intentional workplace violence than employees in other industries. And the pandemic has only made this violence more prevalent due to the frustration and anxiety it causes in patients.

Back in January, a patient at Hanover Regional Medical Center in North Carolina attacked and injured two workers trying to care for him. One woman was choked until she fell unconscious, while the other was strangled with the patient trying to snap her neck. The patient was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault by strangulation. Both workers were reported to be recovering.

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