COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio legislation that would increase penalties for hurting a nurse or other health care worker while they're on the job unanimously cleared the state Senate on Tuesday.
In a last-minute amendment, senators added judges, prosecutors and other court personnel to those whom assaults upon would spur tougher punishments. Those changes must be approved now by the House.
Ohio law provides for tougher penalties for assaults on certain workers, such as those working at correctional facilities or performing emergency medical services. The new measure would expand the law to cover assaults on health care professionals, including doctors, nurses, medical assistants and orderlies, as well as the court workers.
The bill makes assault on someone in one of the newly elevated professional classes -- say, an on-duty nurse -- a fifth-degree felony for those with a previous history of similar violence and imposes a fine of up to $5,000. Assault generally is a first-degree misdemeanor in the state.
With final legislative approval, Ohio would become the latest state to add tougher criminal penalties for assaults against health care workers.
Violence against nurses and other health care professionals reportedly has been on the rise in recent years. Mental health experts link the increase partly to cash-strapped states closing hospitals and cutting mental health budgets, sending more drug addicts, alcoholics and psychiatric patients to emergency rooms for care.
The American College of Emergency Physicians recommended new safety measures to combat assaults, including tougher penalties.