Senator Ward’s Bill to Protect Healthcare Practitioners Is Headed to Governor’s Desk

HARRISBURG – A bill that would strengthen penalties for assaults against healthcare practitioners and technicians is on its way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law, according to the measure’s sponsor, Senator Judy Ward (R-30).

Existing state law provides stiffer penalties for assaults against certain healthcare professionals, including doctors, residents, nurses and paramedics.

Senate Bill 351 would extend the same protections to a broader range of healthcare practitioners, including social workers, pharmacists, audiologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, athletic trainers, dietitian-nutritionists, massage therapists, optometrists, podiatrists, physician assistants and respiratory therapists.

A number of healthcare technicians would also be included under the bill, such as cardiac device specialists, diagnostic medical sonographers, cardiac sonographer, exercise physiologists, vascular technologists, pharmacy technicians and physical therapy aides.

The bill would increase the penalty for an assault against a healthcare practitioner in which there is bodily injury. Ward’s legislation would upgrade the offense from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a felony of the second degree.

“Violence against employees is much more prevalent in healthcare settings than in most other professions. Every member of the healthcare community deserves the peace of mind to know they are better protected against the threat of being attacked at work,” said Ward, who is a Registered Nurse. “It is time to close the loophole in this statute and protect all healthcare employees who are caring for patients, and I am grateful that my colleagues in the House of Representatives have brought us one step closer to that goal.”

Senate Bill 351 is supported by the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, Pennsylvania Medical Society, Pennsylvania Hospital Association, Pennsylvania Organization of Nurse Leaders, Pennsylvania Society for Respiratory Care, Inc., and Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

The Senate passed the bill in October, and it was approved by the House of Representatives and sent to the governor Tuesday.

CONTACT:   Cheryl Schriner (717) 787-5490