State Senate approves health/legal proposals: workplace violence, video monitoring

During annual “deadline week” to advance or reject measures originating in the upper chamber of the Oklahoma Legislature, the Senate sent to the House of Representatives a wave of proposed new laws. 
Two measures of interest deal with areas of health policy rarely scrutinized in policy arenas. 

The Senate voted in favor of legislation strengthening laws dealing with violence against people who work in hospitals and health care facilities. Senate Bill 1290, the Medical Care Provider Protection Act, by Sen. Darrell Weaver, was approved on Thursday (March 5) and now moves to the state House.

Weaver, R-Moore, said nearly 75 percent of all workplace assaults occur in health care with one in four nurses reporting they’d experienced some kind of workplace violence — that’s more than three times higher than all other occupations. He said the goal of SB 1290 is to better protect Oklahoma health care workers.

“In Oklahoma City hospitals alone, there are between five and 10 assaults reported every single day. Attacks on health care workers can result in significant injuries, missed work, PTSD and lower productivity,” Weaver said. “It can also be deadly. Nationwide, at least 58 hospital workers died in 2014 as a result of reported violence in the workplace. It’s clear we need to strengthen our laws to better protect health care workers, raise awareness and increase accountability.”

Provisions included in S.B. 1290 would:

    •  Raise awareness through uniformed signage in medical settings, which will read: WARNING: ASSAULTING A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL WHO IS ENGAGED IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS OR HER OFFICIAL DUTIES IS A SERIOUS CRIME.
    •  Require the annual reporting of all assaults on health care workers to the State Health Department. The data would be nonidentifiable.
    •  Create an inclusive listing of specific health care workers that the bill covers.
    •  Increase the penalty for aggravated assault and battery on a medical care provider from the current range of up to one year to a minimum of two years and a maximum of five.

“S.B. 1290 will make sure all health care workers are covered by protections related to assaults, whether they’re an ER doctor or nurse, a physical therapist, or even a chaplain. The bill also corrects a disparity in current law to ensure appropriate penalties for these attacks,” Weaver said. “I appreciate the Senate’s support on this measure and look forward to working with my House author, Representative Cynthia Roe, to get this bill all the way to the governor’s desk.”

In other news, state Sen. James Leewright has won unanimous approval in the Senate for Senate Bill 1739, the “Barbara E. Hoover Act,” protecting the use of video monitoring in assisted living centers. The legislation, which was approved Tuesday, ensures all continuum of care facility residents have the same rights as nursing home residents.

“Several years ago, the Legislature passed a measure to safeguard the right of nursing home patients and their families to use video monitoring equipment in their own private room,” said Leewright, R-Bristow. “This legislation updates that law to ensure residents in assisted living centers and other continuum of care facilities have that same right.”
Leewright’s bill is supported by AARP, the Oklahoma Silver-Haired Legislature and the Oklahoma Alliance on Aging.

“I filed this bill because I had a constituent in my district living in a long-term care facility.  The family had video monitoring equipment in her room, but they were threatened with eviction if they didn’t remove it,” Leewright said. “This legislation modernizes our state law to make sure all long-term care facilities are covered and prohibits eviction or retaliation against residents who use video equipment for additional safety and security.”

The measure now moves across the rotunda for further consideration. Rep. Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa, is the principal author for the S.B. 1739 in the House.