Senator Ward’s Bill to Protect Healthcare Practitioners Becomes Law

HARRISBURG – A bill signed into law today will strengthen penalties for assaults against healthcare practitioners and technicians, according to the measure’s author, Senator Judy Ward (R-30).

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

Act 51 of 2020 will extend the same protections to a broader range of healthcare practitioners and healthcare technicians.

Under the new law, the penalty for an assault against a healthcare practitioner in which there is bodily injury would be upgraded 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. “I am thankful that we were able to close this loophole and ensure all healthcare professionals can keep their focus on patients.”

Ward’s bill is supported by the Pennsylvania Medical Society, Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, Pennsylvania Hospital Association, Pennsylvania Organization of Nurse Leaders, Pennsylvania Society for Respiratory Care, Inc., and Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

“WellSpan Health is very grateful for Senator Judy Ward’s leadership in getting SB 351 signed into law,” said Roxanna Gapstur, Ph.D., R.N., WellSpan President and CEO. “Sixty percent of workplace assaults occur in healthcare settings, while healthcare workers comprise only 13 percent of the U.S. workforce. This legislation will protect our healthcare heroes from violence and harassment and will make them more secure in the workplace. I’d also like to thank Governor Tom Wolf for signing it into law. WellSpan looks forward to working with our elected leaders on our common goal of making our community a healthier and safer place to live and work.”

The new law will go into effect in 60 days.

CONTACT:  Cheryl Schriner (717) 787-5490

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