Vermont Leaders Take Action to Protect Healthcare Workers
Ray Smith
/ Categories: NEWS, 2023

Vermont Leaders Take Action to Protect Healthcare Workers

In a win for healthcare workers and patients across the state of Vermont, Act S.36 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 10 and has been referred to the Committee on Health and Welfare which, if all goes well, will be the final step before reaching the State House for a vote later this year.

With sponsorship led by Senators Dick Sears and Virginia Lyons, the bill aims to increase protections afforded to healthcare workers across Vermont who find themselves subject to verbal and physical assault. Specifically, the act allows for arrest without a warrant for assaults and threats against healthcare workers and disorderly conduct at healthcare facilities.

“We are seeing a crisis play out in Emergency Departments across the state that has potential repercussions that could impact the quality of healthcare for years to come,” says Sears. “While acts of aggression against healthcare workers can negatively impact the quality-of-care nurses and doctors provide in the moment, it has led many to leave the field while discouraging others from pursuing it as a career. Like so many other industries, healthcare is already suffering a shortage of workers post-pandemic. Now is not the time to have inappropriate behavior and senseless aggression deepen the crisis.”

Sears, who met with numerous nurses, ER physicians, healthcare administrators and police officers while crafting the bill, believes the bill has the potential to discourage acts of aggression.

“While it should be understood that this kind of behavior is unacceptable,” he says, “this bill makes that clear by attaching criminal penalties and empowering the police to remove guilty parties and charge them with a misdemeanor or felony depending the nature of the assault. As currently proposed, police do not have to witness the act to take action.”

Sears adds that while all signs point to the bill moving through the next committee, he’s prepared to do whatever’s necessary to address the issue.

“We heard some very compelling testimony from nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers from across Vermont. Their written and verbal accounts of the things they’ve been increasingly subjected to in recent months … physical assault, racial slurs, even stalking … was both powerful and heart-wrenching. The mental toll they endured was readily apparent,” recounts Sears. “Healthcare is a vital part of the fabric of any strong community. It’s up to all of us to reverse the trend and do what’s right for those who care for us when we’re most in need.”

If you’d like to lend your support to S.36, contact your local legislator. Click here to learn who your legislator is and how to reach them.

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