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Minutes for HB2023 - Committee on Judiciary

Short Title

Creating the crime of interference with the conduct of a hospital, providing criminal penalties for violation thereof and increasing the criminal penalties for battery of a healthcare provider who is employed by a hospital.

Minutes Content for Mon, Jan 23, 2023

Chairperson Patton opened the hearing on HB2023. Natalie Scott provided an overview of the bill. (Attachment 3) Ms. Scott stood for questions.

Proponent

Tara Mays (Attachment 4) stated the unfortunate reality is that every day, healthcare workers are assaulted on the job. These actions include but are not limited to assault, aggravated assault, and battery.  Ms. Mays explained these instances are on the rise. In the United States, injuries caused by violent attacks against medical professionals grew by 67% from 2011 to 2018, with healthcare workers five times more likely to experience workplace violence than workers in all other industries, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ms. Mays thanked the membership for the opportunity to provide testimony in support of HB2023.

Chairperson Patton asked the membership to hold questions till all conferees have testified.

Chris Buesing (Attachment 5) began by briefly explaining his own experience with workplace violence. His attack occurred on January 17th, 2017 and he has been through a very long recovery both physically and mentally. In his current position as Director for Workers Compensation and Workforce Safety at Stormont Vail Health, he is implementing new procedures and rules so the staff can assist in protecting themselves and the patients. Mr. Buesing stated he is here to ask for your help and help keep them safe so they can continue to take care of you, your family, your friends, your peers and even those that act violently towards us as we care for them.

Celina Huffman (Attachment 6) stated in 2022, the Shawnee Mission campus experienced an average of almost nine incidents per month where an associate was battered, injured, or a weapon is involved during an incident. These violent incidents are intentional and not the result of a medical condition. Her hospital’s Workplace Violence Prevention Committee has implemented policies to empower our team members. This issue has become so significant that KC metro hospitals came together to form the Kansas City Workplace Violence Collaborative. This is a national problem and many states have taken similar action to increase penalties. We hope you will support HB2023 to support the health care workforce.

Elijah Thompson (Attachment 7) explained how HB2023 would increase criminal penalties for the intentional assault of healthcare workers and interference with the conduct of a hospital. It would close gaps in the realm where those with malicious intent often operate. At times, those who create intentional disturbances in hospitals disrupt the environment and the ability of care providers to attend to other patients. Mr. Thompson said he was confident that HB2023, if passed into law and used appropriately, and if charges are filed by prosecutors, will have a positive impact on hospital settings and the quality of care provided to all citizens in the State of Kansas.

Tammy Northrop (Attachment 8) stated Ascension Via Christi is experiencing the same workplace violence. Ms. Northrop did indicate that it can also be the patient's family who is abusive. Ascension Via Christi hospitals has implemented a series of measures to try and mitigate this violence. She explained all hospitals are experiencing a shortage of healthcare workers and the increased threats and acts of violence only increase our workforce challenges.

Val Gleason (Attachment 9) explained her situation at the Newton Medical Center (NMC) saying it was much like the previous presenters. Ms. Gleason stated this bill is important because NMC is concerned about their employees’ safety and security in our workplaces on and off campus. She also explained hospitals are under pressure to PROTECT and DEFEND their on-duty staffs. Adding that it is not just a moral duty, it is an imposed duty through OSHA’s General Duty Clause. She asked the committee's support for HB2023.

Ed Klumpp (Attachment 10) stated the organizations he is speaking on behalf of, believe the approach to these crimes presented in HB2023 is reasonable and will send a clear message to the people who act out against health care workers. We urge you to take three steps relating to this bill. Mr Klumpp asked the membership to move HB2023 favorably for passage. He also asked the membership to: speak to your leadership about the importance of passing this bill to protect the ability to conduct medical services safely and efficiently, get it above the line and passed in the House and speak to your colleagues not on this committee about the importance of this bill.

John F. McMaster M.D. (Attachment 11) stated unfortunately, our hospital-based emergency departments are overcrowded as they and his medical colleagues from all specialties attempt to address both the medical and social needs of society. HB2023 provides increased statutory protections to those health care providers, who in the line of performing their professional duties are physically assaulted or intentionally harmed. He asked for the committee's support.

R.E. “Tuck” Duncan (Attachment 12) Mr. Duncan explained the same problem is occurring to transportation employees. Mr. Ducan offered an amendment to improve public safety and welfare that will encompass additional classification of workers. Thank you for your kind attention to and consideration of this matter.

Questions were address by the conferees. Mr. Klumpp said, while the HB2023 will assist with the issues, he felt that it would be beneficial for the Presidents and CEO's of the hospitals and health centers meet with state Law Enforcement Organization's leaders to discuss the matters and possible workable solutions.

Written Proponent

Morgan Gerhardt, Director of Emergency Department, Stormont Vail Health (Attachment 13)

Abbey Cotter, Director of Behavioral Health, Ascension Via Christi, St. Francis (Attachment 14)

Stephanie Meyer, Chief Nursing Officer, Children's Mercy (Attachment 15)

Rachelle Colombo, Executive Director, Kansas Medical (Attachment 16)

Neutral

Rev. Tarris (Terry) Rosell (Attachment 17) explained as an ethicist with specialization in bioethics, clinical ethics, and Christian Ethics, he considers his testimony regarding HB2023 to be neutral, neither for or against, but cautionary and constructive. He does consider the bill, as drafted, pragmatically deficient. Legislation aiming to address violence against healthcare workers should fulfill at least one of several possible goals: prevention, deterrence, rehabilitation, punishment, protection of victims, justice for victims. Rev. Rossell said while the intent of HB2023 is surely good, it is unclear whether it could sufficiently accomplish any of these goals. Another concern he had about HB2023, as presented, is the potential for prejudice in its application and effect. Rev. Rosell explains additional concerns and suggestions in his written testimony.

Chairperson Patton closed the hearing on HB2023.

Chairperson Patton adjourned the meeting at 5:23 pm.