RNs Press Case for Hospital Workplace Safety Legislature Set to Hear Bill on Violence Prevention
Assembly Committee OKs Bill on MRSA Infection Response
The California state legislature this week is taking a first look on two bills sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United intended to improve workplace safety prevention measures in California hospitals.
On Thursday morning, the Senate Labor Committee will review legislation that would step up violence prevention policies in California hospitals, an issue that gained greater urgency this week by the stabbings of two registered nurses at two Los Angeles area hospitals.
A separate bill to assure eligibility to workplace compensation for RNs and other hospital staff who contract the dangerous MRSA skin infection won approval by the Assembly Insurance Committee Wednesday. Assembly Bill 2616 by Assembly member Nancy Skinner was passed on an 8-5 vote. It next goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
On workplace violence, 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.
Workplace violence is a continuing concern in California hospitals, nurses say, putting RNs, 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 issue 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. Such incidents, becoming more common in California hospitals, say nurses, emphasize the need to reduce opportunities for workplace violence which is also a critical safety measure for patients, families, and unrelated hospital visitors.
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 assist RNs, other staff, exposed to MRSA
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.
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 who are predominantly male. AB 2616 would extend that eligibility to RNs and other hospital employees who are predominantly women.
Testifying for AB 2616, CNA Co-president Malinda Markowitz, RN cited a MRSA outbreak in December in the mom and baby unit at her San Jose area hospital. Administrators directed all staff in the affected units to be tested, and told them if found positive, they would be sent home and forced to use vacation time or lose pay due their exposure.
“Employees were never told about their right to access workers’ compensation. When the RNs who tested positive inquired if this situation qualified for workers’ comp they were told it did not,” said Markowitz. “This type of situation goes on everyday at all California hospitals. RNs and other healthcare workers face an enormous amount of pressure and intimidation from management to not file workers’ compensation claims and/or face claims rejections. When nurses do file claims there are often harassed and embarrassed to the point where they do not proceed with the claim or do not file an appeal if a case is rejected.”
“Nurses and other healthcare workers provide a vital community service and should be taken care of with a rebuttal presumption for MRSA infections. Just like other first responders such as firefighters and police officers, nurses do not discriminate in which patients they care for, which include those with MRSA and other infections,” said Markowitz, urging a “yes” vote on the bill.