Hospital worker safety improvements one step closer after O’Ban bill’s passage

20140212_LegWA_0113ksMembers of the state Senate today approved Senate Bill 6022, a measure that would increase protections for state hospital workers. The bill, proposed by west Pierce County Sen. Steve O’Ban, would increase the penalty for assaulting an employee, contractor, intern, or volunteer of a state hospital who was performing his or her official duties to a third-degree crime.

“In 2013, there were 315 reported assaults to staff by patients at Western State Hospital, and I imagine the other state hospitals are dealing with similar issues,” said O’Ban, who represents the 28th Legislative District. “In fact, one of my constituents who works at Western State Hospital had boiling water thrown in his face after a patient used a hospital-provided microwave to prepare for the attack. Because of his status as a patient, the attacker didn’t face many consequences and that simply isn’t right for someone who commits a violent assault.”

Washington operates three state hospitals for the care of adults and children with mental illness: Western State Hospital and the Child Study and Treatment Center in Lakewood, and Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake. Proponents argue SB 6022 would level the playing field for state hospital employees with every other medical provider in the state.

“State hospital workers deserve the same protections that you or I expect from our judicial system, regardless of the fact that they work in a potentially dangerous environment,” O’Ban added, “perhaps even more so since they spend every day working closely with these unpredictable individuals. I’m pleased to see my bill supported by the majority of my Senate colleagues and I hope the House will see its benefits as well.”

SB 6022 will now be considered by the House of Representatives.