A state Senate committee unanimously passed a bill that would increase penalties for those who assault medical care providers.
One in every four medical care providers said they’ve been assaulted on the job by a patient. It’s become so common; many don’t even report it.
Shelly Williamson and Amy Eberle are both nurses. Both passionate about their calling. And both have been sexually attacked by patients in their care.
“I got between the bed and the wall and he attacked me. I fought my way out and I got out, but my PTSD was so bad, and the assault was so bad that I was off of work for a year,” Williamson said. “His lawyer pleaded it down to six months and that’s what he served was six months. For sexual assault. After being a convicted rapist.”
“He had a hold of me by my neck and he was slamming me up against a cabinet wall. He had my shoulders pinned with his shoulders and my feet weren’t on the ground. And he was strangling me,” Eberle remembered. “And he pulled his arm back like he was going to hit me, and I thought oh, here it is and I really started screaming. And he didn’t though. He started raping me.”
Williamson and Eberle are in support of Senate Bill 1290, which would expand the definition of “emergency medical care providers” to include not only doctors and nurses, but also lab techs, pharmacists, students, volunteers and hospital security. Those who assault providers could face two years in prison.
“People don’t realize that they’re getting assaulted out here. We have to make them aware that it’s not going to be tolerated,” said the bill’s author, Senator Darrell Weaver (R) Moore.
The law would not apply to people with mental health issues.
“And it’s not just mental health and drug addiction. The person that assaulted me was alert and oriented. He knew exactly what he was doing. That happens on a daily basis,” Williamson said. “We’re dehumanized.”
The bill now heads to the full state Senate. If signed into law, it will take effect November 1.