Assaulting Florida hospital staff, volunteers could mean stiffer charges

Nurse anesthetists
Health care workers accounted for 73% of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses due to violence in 2018.

Battering or assaulting hospital employees or volunteers may not land assailants the typical run-of-the mill charges.

Members of the Senate Health Policy Committee voted unanimously to advance SB 568, sponsored by Sens. Ana Maria Rodriguez and Ed Hooper, to its next committee of reference. The bill elevates the charges that assailants can face for battery and assault on Florida hospital employees and volunteers.

Nearly 296,000 people work at Florida hospitals, of which 63,617are medical staff, according to an analysis of the legislation. The bill was supported by statewide groups such as the Florida Nurses Association, the Florida Hospital Association and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.

It also was supported by a number of hospitals, including HCA Florida and others.

Daniel J. Podberesky, Chief Medical Officer of Nemours Children’s Health, told the committee that the legislation is necessary.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing an increasing level of violence, anger and intimidation directed toward our physicians and nurses in particular. In the last several years, we have had more parents become irrationally angry about typical health care interactions. They threaten to harm physicians physically and to prevent them from practicing medicine in the future over seemingly minor perceived issues,” he told members of the committee.

“We’ve had families threaten the lives of our physicians to the point where around-the-clock, armed, personal bodyguards have been required to ensure their safety. Recently, we had a parent threaten to use their gun that she was visibly pointing to in her holster because she believed her child’s needs weren’t being taken care of quickly enough.”

A 2017 report commissioned by the American Hospital Association estimated that violence against hospital employees resulted in $429 million in medical care, staffing, indemnity and other costs.

According to a staff analysis, health care workers accounted for 73% of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses due to violence in 2018.

It is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida to commit an assault. Battery is generally punishable as a first-degree misdemeanor. But state law elevates those charges when committed against certain classes of individuals, such as a police officer or firefighter.

The legislation would add hospital personnel to that group of protected professions. That would raise an assault charge on hospital personnel from a second-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree misdemeanor. A battery charge would jump from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.

In the case of aggravated assault, the bill elevates the charge from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony, and in the case of aggravated battery, from a second-degree felony to a first-degree felony.

SB 568 heads to the Senate Rules Committee, its last committee reference.

HB 825, the counterpart filed by Rep. Kimberly Berfield, will be heard by the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee next.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.

One comment

  • David Pakman

    March 20, 2023 at 7:33 pm

    Some of the mfrs deserve it because they are trolls. Especially in the field of mental health. The nurses can be trolls. They deserve a good smack. Enjoy your new far right police state! Every third person will be a felon by 2024 with jails overflowing if they keep on bumping up punishments.

Comments are closed.


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