INDIANAPOLIS — The mass shooting at a medical facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma along with other incidents, has shaken communities and healthcare facilities across the nation, including the Indiana Hospital Association.
Hospitals are looking into beefing up security measures, but not just because of gun violence.
Assaults on healthcare workers are on the rise, according to the President of the Indiana Hospital Association, Brian Tabor.
"We are seeing an increase in physical assaults against our front line workers, nurses physicians security professionals and others," Tabor said.
Tabor said across the state, there has been an uptick in assaults on nurses, hospital security, emergency room staff and others within the past few years, but within the past couple of months, the violence has spiked.
"Hospitals masking is still required for example, and we have had incidents where sometimes the public gets frustrated with a nurse who reminding that individual to continue to wear that mask," Tabor said.
Mental health is believed to be a factor in some of the attacks.
"At some level, we know this mental health crisis that we have in Indiana and our society has to be one of the driving factors," Tabor said. "Unfortunately, we've seen just too many incidents like this recently."
According to an April 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, health care industries experienced the highest rates of injuries caused by workplace violence.
Right now, there is no federal law protecting hospital employees from assault and intimidation.
Hospitals locally and across the nation are calling on Congress to change that.
Tuesday, Indiana Congressman Larry Bucshon, along with Pennsylvania Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, proposed the Safety From Violence for Healthcare Employees bill or "SAVE ACT."
If passed, it will make it a federal crime to assault or intimidate hospital employees.
"And since these are public facilities where people come and go, I think this will help them understand if people coming in threatening them that there are federal repercussions of that and it will discourage people from doing that and make the workplace safer," Rep. Bucshon said.
Protections will be in place for mentally ill and substance abuse patients.
"I was a doctor for many years and this is a worsening problem and hospitals have to address it and part of it is people essentially get away with it with a slap on the wrist and it's been making it more and more difficult for providers to take care of people," Rep. Bucshon said.
Tabor said this added layer of protection is needed and hospitals are places of healing and sanctuary and not a place for violence.
"We just ask people to treat our healthcare workers with respect and understand they are doing their job," Tabor said.
“Violence in hospitals has been growing with increasing frequency for years,” Rep. Dean said. “This legislation will take the important step to enhance the criminal penalty for someone who knowingly and intentionally enters a hospital and assaults an employee. These tireless heroes deserve protections to ensure they are not victimized while trying to save lives."
The bill is endorsed by the American Hospital Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), the Indiana Hospital Association (IHA) and the Indiana Organization for Nursing Leadership (IONL).
IU Health and Franciscan Health both shared statements with WRTV about the rise in assaults:
"The incidence of assaults on healthcare workers remains a concern and IU Health has numerous protections in place for team members to keep them safe and allow them to carry out their patient care mission."
"Like many hospitals around the country, Franciscan Health Central Indiana occasionally experiences incidents involving assault and battery on its healthcare workers. However, our security and safety team, aided by our clinical and support staff, are highly trained to deal with these situations. We also work closely with law enforcement agencies to ensure the protection of our patients, visitors and staff."
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