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Legislature to Hear Two Bills to Improve Hospital Workplace Safety for RNs, Patients, Other Staff

California Nurses Association Press Release, 4/21/14

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Los Angeles Stabbings Highlight Need for Prevention
 
The California state legislature will consider legislation this week sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United intended to substantially improve workplace safety prevention measures in California hospitals – an issue heightened by the weekend stabbings of two registered nurses at two separate Los Angeles area hospitals.
 
Senate Bill 1299, introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla would require the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt standards requiring hospitals to establish workplace violence prevention plans to protect health care workers and other facility personnel from aggressive and violent behavior. The Senate Labor Committee will hold a hearing on the bill Thursday, April 24, at 9:30 a.m. in Room 2040 in the State Capitol in Sacramento.
 
A separate bill on workplace safety, Assembly Bill 2616 by Assembly member Nancy Skinner would assure eligibility to workplace compensation for RNs and other hospital staff who contract the dangerous, and too often deadly MRSA skin infection. The Assembly Insurance Committee will consider the bill on Wednesday, April 23 at 9 a.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol.
 
Workplace violence has become a growing problem in California, says CNA, that put nurses, other hospital workers, and hospital patients, families, and visitors in danger. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care and social service workers are nearly five times more likely to suffer workplace assaults than workers in all other major industries combined.
 
The concern received heightened attention Sunday with the separate stabbings of RNs at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance. The Olive View RN was reported to be in critical condition earlier today.
 
Nurses: Hospitals need to strengthen workplace violence prevention
 
Sunday’s events are just the latest in a number of incidents that, CNA says, emphasize the need to reduce opportunities for workplace violence is also a critical safety measure for patients, families, and unrelated hospital visitors, notes CNA.  
 
One major reason for the escalating occurrences, say nurses, is the lack of adequate preventive measures in too many hospitals.
 
“We can not stand by while nurses, other hospital staff, patients, families, and visitors are put in harms way in hospitals that fail to provide the measures that will protect their staff and the community,” said CNA Co-President Malinda Markowitz. “It is time for the legislature to act.”
 
Under SB 1299, hospitals would be required to have policies that include systems to improve hospital security and appropriate staffing to reduce the potential for violent incidents. Sufficient staffing and security personnel are major preventive measures.
 
Hospitals would also be required to provide education and training programs for recognizing and responding to violence, and would be prohibited from retaliation against employees who seek help from law enforcement.
 
Additionally the law would step up the requirement for hospitals to document and report incidents of violence to Cal-OSHA and would require Cal/OSHA to post a report on its website containing information regarding violent incidents at hospitals and to make recommendations on how to prevent violent incidents at hospitals.
 
Similar legislation sponsored by CNA last year was derailed due to heavy opposition from the hospital industry.
 
AB 2616 would extend presumptive eligibility for worker’s comp for any hospital employees who contract the aggressive, especially virulent antibiotic resistance staph infection commonly known as MRSA, as well as for contraction on the job of the HIV virus or hepatitis.
 
An estimated 200,000 MRSA occur in California hospitals every year, of which 12,000 result in deaths, according to the State Department of Public Health. RNs are particularly vulnerable to exposure because of the personal nature of the care they provide.
 
Under current law, a number of workplace injuries qualify for presumption of eligibility for workers’ comp for public safety personnel. But only for police, firefighters and some other safety personnel, not for hospital staff who are predominantly male.
 
AB 2616 would extend that eligibility to RNs and other hospital employees who are predominantly women.

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