Midtown shooting draws attention to new Georgia Safer Hospitals Act

The shooting at Northside Hospital in Midtown Atlanta drew attention to the safety of healthcare workers. The Safer Hospitals Act, signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp last week, is meant to better protect them. 

"Included in this new law, anyone convicted of assaulting a healthcare worker on site could face five to twenty years behind bars," said Georgia Nurses Association CEO Matt Caseman.

Caseman said his organization has noticed an increase in assaults on healthcare workers since the pandemic began.

"People are just suffering mentally right now, and they're under a lot of stress," Caseman said. 

In fact, according to healthcare analytics company Press Ganey, two nurses were assaulted every hour in 2022. The American Nurses Association says one in four nurses report being physically assaults.

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A new Georgia law seeks to allow for hospitals to create their own police forces and stiffens the penalties 

The Safer Hospitals Act increases penalties for assaults against hospital workers and allows hospitals to establish campus police departments. Some Georgia hospitals previously lacked the legal ability to have their own certified police officers.

"They'll have a police force right on-site, similar to a campus police or university police, and they'll be able to get to locations very quickly," Caseman said.

Caseman said this is just a first step. They would eventually like to see signage in emergency rooms as well, but he hopes the extra precautions will give healthcare workers some peace of mind. 

"Health care workers are there to take care of people, and they don't need to be worrying about being assaulted," he explained. 

The law goes into effect on July 1.