MichMash: Loophole in law discouraging threats against health workers has some worried

Legislation signed by Gov. Whitmer last week increases fines for people who assault health care workers, but the law doesn’t apply to patients.

The emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

The emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week signed legislation to increase fines for people who assault health care workers, but some of the workers say it doesn’t go far enough. Bridge Michigan’s Robin Erb joined MichMash host Cheyna Roth to explain what is missing from the bipartisan bill.

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In this episode:

  • New legislation that increases the fines for those that assault health care workers
  • Michigan aging faster than most other states
  • The shortage of nurses in Michigan

House Bill 4520, sponsored by state Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Linden), increases fines against those who assault (without a weapon) health professionals or medical volunteers who are on the job at the time of the crime. House Bill 4521, sponsored by state Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi), increases fines against those who assault health professionals or medical volunteers on the job with a weapon. Both bills also require operators of health facilities to post signs describing the enhanced fines.

“We know from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — these are the folks who track injuries — we know from them that workers from Michigan’s health care workplaces get assaulted more often than so many other sectors,” said Erb.  

A caveat to the new law is that patients are exempt from the increase in fines, and according to Erb, patients are commonly the perpetrators, especially when being treated for behavioral or mental health struggles.

“In a hearing earlier this year, one of the sponsors [of the bill] Republican Mike Mueller said precisely because of [the mental health component of certain patients] he was unwilling to toughen the penalty on patients,” Erb said. 

In addition to signage being displayed outlining the increased penalties, there will be task forces assembled to determine what most often precipitates the verbal or physical attacks.

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  • Hernz Laguerre
    Hernz Laguerre Jr. is a Multimedia Journalist at 101.9 WDET. He is one of the co-host for "Detroit Evening Report," one of the weekend anchors for "Weekend Edition," the producer for our political podcast, "MichMash," and reports on arts, culture and politics.