Thank you to Governor Ralph Northam for signing Senate Bill 1395 into law. This important legislation, introduced by Senator Janet Howell, makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to make oral threats to kill or do bodily injury to health care providers. We are grateful for these new protections to health care workers, who, day after day put themselves in harm’s way to provide an important service to the community they serve.
Read the entire letter to Governor Northam from James B. Cole, President & CEO of Virginia Hospital Center:
25 March 2019
The Honorable Ralph S. Northam
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Dear Governor Northam:
I am writing today as President and Chief Executive Officer of Virginia Hospital Center, to express our appreciation for your approval of Senate Bill 1395 patroned by Senator Janet Howell. This new law will make it a Class 1 misdemeanor to make oral threats to kill or do bodily injury to health care providers in an emergency department. This bill was a top priority for Virginia Hospital Center, and we are grateful to Senator Howell for her willingness to champion this important policy.
Violence in the health care workplace is a serious problem and one that the employees at Virginia Hospital Center face on a daily basis. Our providers, particularly nurses and emergency room medical staff, are often subject to various forms of violence including physical attacks, intimidation, and threats of harm to themselves or their families in service of their community. The staff at Virginia Hospital Center recognized the need to address the issue of oral threats in a health care setting after several incidents at the hospital prompted our practitioners to attempt to obtain a warrant against an abusive patient. While hospital staff does their best to manage threatening patients, this new law will provide law enforcement with needed clarity on when charges can be filed against individuals who threaten bodily harm against health care workers.
Several recent studies underscore the violence experienced by health care workers. Indeed, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released a report highlighting that seventy-five percent of nearly 25,000 assaults reported annually occur in health care settings. Likewise, a report from the General District Court Case Management System (CMS) noted that there were sixty-three convictions of assault and battery of an emergency health care providers in Virginia in 2017 and 2018. Taken together, these reports show that hospital workers face a clear and present danger in their interactions with patients, particularly in the emergency department.
Senate Bill 1395 builds on the good work done over the past several years to afford greater protections to health care workers and Virginia Hospital Center was proud to work on this important legislation with many stakeholders, including the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, the Virginia Nursing Association, and the Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners. Together, we were able to work with members of the General Assembly to ensure this important legislation passed on a bi-partisan basis.
I appreciate your approval of Senate Bill 1395. I believe this legislation will go a long way in providing necessary protections to health care workers, who, day after day put themselves in harms way to provide an important service to the community they serve.
James B. Cole
President & CEO
Virginia Hospital Center
cc: The Honorable Janet Howell