Health care providers support bill to protect workers from violent threats

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) – State lawmakers are trying to institute more protections for health care workers.

Assembly Bill 960 was recently passed by the State Senate, which would make violent threats against health care workers a Class H felony.

Clark Draxler with Gundersen Health System says receiving medical treatment can be stressful for patients, leading them to lash out.

“When people are maybe not happy with how things are going, and they make a threat to hurt somebody or hurt someone’s family, that’s a lot of baggage that our teams take out of here,” Draxler explained.

As a bedside nurse, Draxler has experienced threats of violence firsthand.

The Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) is seeing the same across the state.

“It’s been a concern, I would say at least for the last decade,” said Ann Zenk, WHA’s Senior Vice President of Workforce & Clinical Practice. ”There’s been an escalation, we follow the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, and those reports show that violence related to injuries in the health care workplace rose by 63% between 2011 and 2018.”

Both Zenk and Draxler say the pandemic has only exacerbated the issue.

If the bill gets signed into law by Gov. Evers, Zenk hopes the added penalties will give peace of mind to health care workers.

“We need to make sure that those who provide the high-quality health care that Wisconsin is known for can stay in their challenging and rewarding careers without risk of threats and violence,” Zenk added.

Evers has yet to approve the bill, but the WHA expects it to happen in the near future.

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