September 12, 2023

Washington, DC— Today, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act, a bipartisan and bicameral legislation that would create stronger legal penalties for people who knowingly and intentionally assault or intimidate hospital employees.

“Our nation’s healthcare workers tirelessly care for the health and well-being of communities across the country, even in the face of increased violence, threats, and intimidation,” said Senator Manchin. “This legislation would create a safer working environment for hospital staff, deter violent behavior, and make sure that assailants are appropriately held accountable. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this commonsense bill and support our healthcare professionals so they can continue to focus on treating their patients.”

“The SAVE Act would provide much-needed protections for our healthcare workers. It is unacceptable that these dedicated professionals have to put their lives at risk just to do their jobs. The SAVE Act would protect healthcare workers from violence by creating new criminal penalties for acts of intentional assault. I am proud to join Senator Manchin in leading this important bipartisan legislation and I urge my colleagues to support,” said Senator Rubio.

“Caregivers and other health care professionals are the heart of our nation’s health care system and deserve an environment free from violence. Hospitals are places of healing, which is why they are using a range of innovative strategies to create safer spaces for their workers and patients, including focusing on technology and training to mitigate risk to redesigning facilities and workflow processes to prioritize safety and reimagining relationships with hospital security and others to support prevention and crisis response,” American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack said. “But hospitals cannot do it all alone. The sharp rise in violence against caregivers is clearly documented, yet no federal law exists to protect them. Enactment of this bipartisan legislation would be a significant step forward in protecting our workforce. The AHA commends Senators Manchin and Rubio for their leadership on this issue.” 

“Violence in the emergency department is escalating, threatening the health and safety of physicians, nurses, health care workers, and our patients,” said Christopher S. Kang, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “ED violence exacerbates the severe burnout affecting emergency care teams and can lead health care workers to leave an already strained workforce. ACEP deeply appreciates Senator Rubio and Senator Manchin for their bipartisan leadership on the SAVE Act to help ensure that federal law is further equipped to protect health care workers from violence, threats, and intimidation, while better safeguarding our patients with psychiatric and substance use disorder emergencies.”

“An increase in violence against health care workers has burdened a workforce already under immense stress from labor shortages and burnout,” said Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals. “We appreciate the leadership of Sens. Manchin and Rubio for recognizing this urgent problem and taking action, with the SAVE Act of 2023. We urge their Senate colleagues to join them on this vital legislation.”

“Emergency nurses far too often have been victims of violent attacks in hospital emergency departments while they were simply doing their job of caring for patients,” said Emergency Nurses Association President Terry Foster, MSN, RN, CCRN, TCRN, CPEN, CEN, FAEN. “These attacks have reached a crisis point. By establishing federal penalties for individuals who assault hospital employees, this legislation creates real deterrence against such attacks and will result in greater protections for all emergency health care providers. On behalf of the Emergency Nurses Association and its nearly 50,000 members, I would like to thank Senator Rubio and Senator Manchin for introducing the SAVE Act and their efforts to reduce workplace violence.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of injuries from violent attacks against medical professionals grew by 63% from 2011 to 2018, while hospital safety directors say that aggression against staff has escalated since  COVID-19 intensified in 2020. In the second quarter of 2022, more than two nursing personnel were assaulted every hour, equating to 57 assaults per day, 1,739 assaults per month and 5,217 assaults per quarter. With the increase in violence against hospital workers and healthcare worker burnout, it is clear that we need to protect healthcare workers and make their safety a priority.

Although nearly 40 states have passed laws to increase penalties for violence against healthcare workers, there is currently no federal law that protects hospital employees from assault or intimidation. This bill would mirror protections for aircraft and airport workers and would allow extra tools for prosecutors to charge individuals threatening hospitals and their workers. By creating stronger penalties for those who assault or harass hospital workers, this legislation would deter and prevent violence against hospital employees. Additionally, the bill would provide a clause of reasonable defense if the patient is mentally incapacitated due to illness or substance use. 

Representatives Madeleine Dean (D-PA) and Larry Bucshon (R-IN) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Bill text can be found here.


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