HB1578 / SB838 An Act Strengthening the Penalty for Assault or Assault and Battery on an Emergency Medical Technician, Ambulance Operator, Ambulance Attendant or Health Care Provider

Joint Committee on the Judiciary

The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA), on behalf of its member hospitals and health systems, appreciates this opportunity to offer testimony in support of HB1578 / SB838.

Workplace safety is a top priority for each and every hospital in Massachusetts, as health care professionals are part of a 24/7 system of care that can be turbulent and stressful. In an effort to improve the health, safety, and wellbeing of our hospital employees, MHA has recently convened a Caring for the Caregiver Task Force. Comprised of various stakeholders from provider, practitioner, payer, and government perspectives, the group is charged with developing recommendations and best-practices for ensuring a vital health care workforce across all care settings. One of the four main tenets of the Task Force is a focus on health care workplace safety.

Through our discussions with experts in the field, we have heard many suggestions on strategies and systems that providers can employ to improve their safety protocols. However, across all conversations, we consistently hear that one of the strongest deterrents to violence against health care workers requires intervention from state government: the implementation of stricter legal penalties for those who commit violent acts against caregivers. HB1578 / SB838 would strengthen the penalties for assault and battery committed against health care providers, emergency medical technicians, and ambulance operators and attendants, granting added protection for those individuals that play a vital role in the lives of all Massachusetts residents.

Additionally, MHA has worked with legislative leaders to propose a bill (HB1976 / SB1093) to create new statewide standards for evaluating and addressing security risks in hospitals and to ensure that our members have workplace violence prevention programs in place based on those criteria. Our proposal would also strengthen penalties against those convicted of crimes against health care personnel, support victims of workplace violence through the legal process, and facilitate information-sharing between the health care and public safety communities. HB1976 and SB1093 have been referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health and the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, respectively.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important matter. If you have any questions or require further information, please contact Michael Sroczynski, MHA's Senior Vice President of Government Advocacy, at (781) 262-6055 or msroczynski@mhalink.org