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Florida Lawmakers Consider Stiffer Penalties For Those Who Assault Healthcare Providers

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Credit MGN Online
The Florida Channel

A bill increasing the penalties against someone who assaults Florida doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers passed its first House panel Tuesday.

Janegale Boyd now represents the Florida Nurses Association. But, when she was younger, she says she survived an assault while working in a hospital.

“I have to say I would not have had my third child,” Boyd said. “I would not have had any of my grandchildren if I had not survived an assault leveled against me. I was working in one of our cardiac units in one of our local hospitals, when I had a family member that not only tried to stop me, but later tried to kill me. And, fortunately, I’m still here, and fortunately for my family.”

And, Boyd says she’s just one of a growing number of statistics.

“1) Serious workplace violence happens to healthcare workers four times more than in any other agency,” she added. “2) 80 percent of serious violent incidence reported in the healthcare settings are caused by interactions with patients, but it also happens with families and visitors.”

And, Alisa Lapolt—also with the Florida Nurses Association—says addressing these acts are a big priority for nurses.

“Representing the Florida Nurses Association for six years, this issue is top of the list,” she said. “It’s one of the issues that leads to retention problems. We know we have a workforce shortage of nurses in this state. Assault and battery of nurses and healthcare providers is a real thing. It’s not often talked about.”

So, Rep. Daisy Baez (D-Coral Gables) wants to help address this issue for all healthcare workers with a bill she filed to increase penalties.

“Our current law provides that when a person is charged with committing an assault on a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or other specified persons while they are engaged in the lawful performance of their duties that the offenses is to be reclassified to the next highest degree,” she said. “The bill adds healthcare providers to the list of persons, which triggers reclassification for assault and battery. The bill defines healthcare providers to include physicians, registered nurse, and hospital volunteers.”

And, her bill received unanimous approval in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Tuesday. It has two more stops before it heads to the House floor. Meanwhile, its Senate companion has not yet had a hearing.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner .

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