A new law aimed at reducing assaults on medical care workers and hospital staff will go into effect later this year.
The Oklahoma legislature passed the Medical Care Provider Protection Act this month, and it was signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt last week.
Donna Reynolds, the nursing manager at SSM St. Anthony is Oklahoma City, said she felt “elation” when hearing of the bill’s success.
The new law has multiple effects. It raises the sentence for aggravated assault with a weapon against a medical care worker who is doing their job to two to five years of incarceration. Also, the law requires “every hospital, clinic and ambulance service” to display a sign warning patients and visitors that any assault on staff is a serious crime.
Regular reporting of all assaults to the state health department is also required annually.
The bill author, Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore, and Reynolds said assaults on hospital staff is often unreported and not widely discussed in the public.
“It's that demoralizing, that degrading feeling of ‘I’ve been attacked by someone I was trying to care for,’” Reynolds said.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 73% of all nonfatal workplace injuries in 2018 happened to healthcare workers.
“I feel like that it’s almost an accepted mentality that if you’re in an emergency room, or a hospital room that you can be grabbed or punch or something like that, and it’s just simply unacceptable,” Weaver said.
The required signage must say “assaulting a medical professional who is engaged in the performance of his or her official duties is a serious crime,” according to the bill.
The law goes into effect November 1.