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Workers testify in support of bill to protect them from physical harm

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Several Maryland health care workers testified Tuesday in support of state Senate bill 298.The legislation protects public health officials and hospital staff from written or verbal threats of physical harm.The testimony included health care workers describing horrible experiences while on the job, and they said they’ve gotten much worse since the COVID-19 pandemic started.The incidents described include everything from verbal threats to physical violence.The Senate bill would make the attacks punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine — and it specifically deals with threats of harm, not actual physical attacks, because there are already laws to protect against that.Two health care workers from Frederick Health testified at the hearing, saying they’ve seen close to a 200% increase in aggression and verbal abuse directed at nursing staff there over the past two years.”I have personally encountered physical abuse while working — to include being kicked in the stomach when I was pregnant, scratched and spit on. I’ve been threatened, imitated, bullied, harassed and verbally accosted. I’ve witnessed my co-workers being punched, placed in headlocks, strangled,” said Michelle Odelle, hospital supervisor of Frederick Health Hospital.”A nurse being violently pushed in the chest and being told by a patient that they were going to come back with an AK-47 and, ‘Kill all of you.’ A patient throwing an IV pole, barricading himself in the bathroom and making verbal threats to harm the nurse if they tried to come in and help him,” said Dr. Diane McFarland, Chief Nursing officer of Frederick Health Hospital.There was a similar bill introduced last session, but it didn’t make it out of committee. There were 35 other states that have some similar protections in place for public health officials.

Several Maryland health care workers testified Tuesday in support of state Senate bill 298.

The legislation protects public health officials and hospital staff from written or verbal threats of physical harm.

The testimony included health care workers describing horrible experiences while on the job, and they said they’ve gotten much worse since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

The incidents described include everything from verbal threats to physical violence.

The Senate bill would make the attacks punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine — and it specifically deals with threats of harm, not actual physical attacks, because there are already laws to protect against that.

Two health care workers from Frederick Health testified at the hearing, saying they’ve seen close to a 200% increase in aggression and verbal abuse directed at nursing staff there over the past two years.

“I have personally encountered physical abuse while working — to include being kicked in the stomach when I was pregnant, scratched and spit on. I’ve been threatened, imitated, bullied, harassed and verbally accosted. I’ve witnessed my co-workers being punched, placed in headlocks, strangled,” said Michelle Odelle, hospital supervisor of Frederick Health Hospital.

“A nurse being violently pushed in the chest and being told by a patient that they were going to come back with an AK-47 and, ‘Kill all of you.’ A patient throwing an IV pole, barricading himself in the bathroom and making verbal threats to harm the nurse if they tried to come in and help him,” said Dr. Diane McFarland, Chief Nursing officer of Frederick Health Hospital.

There was a similar bill introduced last session, but it didn’t make it out of committee. There were 35 other states that have some similar protections in place for public health officials.



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