Press Release

California Senate Approves RN-Sponsored Bill To Reduce Workplace Violence in Hospitals

The California Senate late Monday approved a bill intended to reduce a growing number of incidents of workplace violence in hospitals.

SB 718 is authored by Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco and sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United. The bill next hears to the Assembly Health Committee.

The bill would require hospitals to establish workplace violence prevention plans and response policies, developed with their employees, to protect workers and patients and assure treatment for all injured staff, including follow up care and counseling.

SB 718 would also require hospitals to investigate and report acts of violence to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), monitor situations involving the risk of violence, and establish financial penalties for failure to report to Cal/OSHA.

Speaking to a rally of RNs last week in Sacramento, Sen. Yee said one major goal is “for employees to be given some training on how to prevent and respond to violent acts. It’s as simple as that, have a plan to provide you with the tools to deal with these issues.”

Additionally, hospitals “will need to create a system to respond, investigate and report those acts of violence so they can not just sweep it under the rug, so they can’t just say don’t worry about it and then simply ignore it,” Yee said.

The problem of hospital workplace violence has gained prominence with a number of attacks in recent years and coincides with cuts in mental health services and programs by healthcare providers.

Just last week, for example, police had to respond to a serious incident at the Kaiser Permanente hospital in Vallejo. According to the Vallejo Times Herald, a patient with apparent mental health problems held a nurse hostage at knife point.

RNs have also cited several incidents over the last several years at Children’s Hospital Oakland. They include one from October, 2010 during which a gunshot victim was dropped off outside the ER doors and an attending hospital official refused initially to send a gurney or to allow nurses to bring the patient into the ER, leading to delays in critical care and exposing nurses and other staff to potential risk.

Following a Cal-OSHA investigation and citation, hospital officials reached a settlement on the citation under which the hospital agreed to develop a series of  protocols for addressing workplace violence.

CNA says there need to be uniform standards at all California hospitals that should not depend on investigations by state agencies before a hospital acts to improve protections for patients, visitors and staff.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics healthcare and social service workers are five times more likely to be the victim of an assault than all other major industries combined. At least 16 states have already enacted legislation to address workplace violence in healthcare.