New Jersey bill seeks to discourage violence against healthcare professionals

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FILE PHOTO: ICU for COVID-19 patients at hospital in Colmar

TRENTON – A growing problem in America during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the rising rate of violence against healthcare professionals. Now, New Jersey Democrats are seeking to slow the trend in the Garden State.

“As violence against health care professionals continues to grow, Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald and Senator Troy Singleton announced on Thursday their plan to introduce legislation to protect healthcare workers. The “Health Care Heroes Violence Prevention Act” will help protect these employees by increasing penalties for those convicted of threats or violence against health care workers,” the NJ Senate Democrats said in a public press release today.

According to that release health care workers were already 5 times more likely to suffer a workplace violence injury than other professions before the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated attacks against these professionals. A survey of more than 5,000 registered nurses in September 2021 found that 31 percent of those working in hospitals faced an increase in workplace violence – up from 22 percent earlier in the year.

“For two years, our nurses, doctors and health care professionals have been on the frontline of the COVID pandemic – often putting their own health at risk,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “Sadly, this figurative battlefield has turned literal, with people physically assaulting these essential workers. This is simply unacceptable. This proposal will send a clear message that our health care workers must be treated with the respect, decency and civility they deserve.”

The measure establishes threats against a health care professional or any worker at a health care facility as a disorderly persons offense, which would be punishable by imprisonment of up to six months and/or a fine of up to $1,000. The bill also calls for additional penalties for assault against these employees by allowing courts to mandate an anger management course or 30 days of community service for defendants.  The proposed legislation is already supported by numerous legislators and health care system leaders throughout New Jersey.