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Tougher penalties for those who assault healthcare workers

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New state laws take effect this month that will toughen penalties for people who assault healthcare workers.

“I see violence in the workplace every single day.”

Shawn Ulreich is the Chief Nurse Executive for Corewell Health West. She says the intent of these laws is to put some teeth behind legislation that will fine individuals for assaulting healthcare workers.

“And it’s not just one occurrence; it’s repeated occurrences that we see. And those assaults can be both physical and verbal.”

Last November, Governor Whitmer signed into law two bipartisan bills that double the penalties and fines for assaulting both healthcare workers and volunteers. Ulreich says it’s a step in the right direction to help keep workers safe in an industry that has seen an escalation in violent incidents over the years.

“Healthcare, where we give care to people, the likelihood of assault is five times greater than in other industries.”

Ulreich believes the reasons behind these increased incidents is multi-faceted, but says the uptick can be traced back to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It wasn’t just the pandemic, but it certainly seemed to escalate things.”

Ulreich says she hopes these new laws will help to decrease the number of violent incidents enacted on her coworkers, but it’s only the first step toward safer healthcare facilities overall.

“It sends a message to healthcare workers is, ‘We hear you, we see you, we’re trying to do something about that.’”

Dave joined WGVU Public Media in November of 2023 after eighteen years as a Michigan Association of Broadcasters Emmy-nominated photojournalist and editor at Grand Rapids' WOOD TV8 and three years at WEYI TV25 in Flint, Michigan. As a General Assignment Reporter, Dave covers daily news and community events all over West Michigan.
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