For immediate release – March 7th 2022

OR-ACEP Contact:

OENA Contact:

A bill to prevent violence against health care workers fails. Emergency physicians and nurses say immediate solutions are needed to address this crisis.

House Bill 4142A, which would increase penalties for assault against health care workers in hospitals on par with penalties for EMS providers, public transit drivers, taxi drivers, flaggers and corrections officers, failed to pass during the 2022 session of the Oregon Legislature.

The bill passed the House 53-7 in the last few days of session but landed in the Senate just as the final committee closed. This was a priority bill for the Oregon Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians and for the Oregon Emergency Nurses Association. In a national survey by ACEP and ENA, half of all emergency physicians and 70 percent of nurses have reported assaults in the emergency department. This bill would have created real consequences for knowingly and intentionally attacking a health care worker. While it would not have solved the entire problem of violence, it would be an important step towards recognizing the rights of providers and their patients to be safe. The emergency department is for everyone and violence puts everyone at risk.

Dr. Chris Richards, an emergency physician and president of OR-ACEP, said: “We came to work every day during the pandemic. We just want to be safe while doing it.”

Angela Powell RN, an emergency nurse and legislative co-chair for OENA, said: “Being physically assaulted while at work is not part of our job and not something we will ignore. Healthcare facilities are meant to be a safe haven. Our environment is one of healing and there is no tolerance for violence.”

Thank you to our emergency department caregivers who continue to care for patients regardless of their physical or mental state and face violence as a daily occurrence.

OR-ACEP and OENA would like to express their deep appreciation to the co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis, R-Albany, and Rep. Shari Schouten, D-Beaverton, for their leadership on this bipartisan effort and the House members who voted in support. We are also grateful to Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, for his effort to save the bill during the last hours before adjournment. This bill also was endorsed by the Oregon Medical Association, Oregon Nurses Association and the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, as well as numerous hospitals. We urge legislators to not wait until 2023 to address the problem of violence in hospitals and the trauma of health care worker assault but to take decisive action during the interim to develop solutions.                     

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