Senate backs up nurses

The Senate today gave preliminary approval to legislation that would ramp up criminal penalties on people convicted of assaulting nurses or other health-care workers.

Violence in hospitals is apparently a big problem – hospital workers, according to national statistics, are four times more likely to be assaulted than the general population.

“We heard very disturbing testimony about people being hit, punched, kicked, choked, threatened, stabbed with hypodermic needles,” said Ann Cummings, a Washington County Democrat and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The legislation creates “enhanced” penalties for someone accused of assault on a health-care professional in a hospital setting. Instead of the six-month maximum prison term for simple assault, convicts could face up to one year. The bill also increases fines for the offense.

The special protections are already in place for police, firefighters and other emergency responders.

The bill won unanimous approval in a voice vote.