Assault of Healthcare Workers Becomes Felony in Utah

The new penalty for assaulting a healthcare professional is similar to the penalty for assaulting a police officer.

The penalty for assaulting a healthcare professional was increased in Utah after a bill was signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert recently.

The new law makes attacking a healthcare worker a third-degree felony if the person acts “intentionally or knowingly” and causes “substantial bodily injury,” reports Desert News.

“We have seen a rise in people that for whatever reason are just not controlling their emotions or acting out and really hurting some providers,” says Dave Gessel of the Utah Hospital Association. “We don’t want providers to feel like they’re in an unsafe place.”

Before the law was passed on May 31, the assault of a healthcare worker was a class A misdemeanor.

An increase in the number of healthcare assaults recorded in a survey earlier this year, while also attributed to improved statistical tracking, in part motivated lawmakers to address the issue of healthcare violence.

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The survey, conducted by the Utah Hospital Association, recorded 200 assaults on healthcare workers this year from local hospitals. The high rate of assaults is in line with other research on violence in hospitals nationwide (and even in Canada), although a recent survey showed a drop in hospital violent crime in 2015.

Critics of the bill argue that it puts the penalty for assaulting a paramedic on par with assaulting a police officer, even though paramedics lack similar de-escalation training.

The law has certain provisions to protect the mentally ill or people under the influence of drugs from stricter punishments.

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