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Ward’s bill headed to Wolf’s desk

HARRISBURG — A bill to strengthen penalties for assaults against more health care practitioners and technicians is on its way to the governor’s desk, according to the measure’s sponsor, state Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair.

Existing state law provides stiffer penalties for assaults against certain health care professionals, including doctors, residents, nurses and paramedics.

Senate Bill 351 would extend the same protections to a broader range of health care practitioners, including social workers, pharmacists, audiologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, athletic trainers, dietitian-nutritionists, massage therapists, optometrists, podiatrists, physician assistants and respiratory therapists.

A number of health care technicians would also be included under the bill, such as cardiac device specialists, diagnostic medical sonographers, cardiac sonographer, exercise physiologists, vascular technologists, pharmacy technicians and physical therapy aides.

The bill would increase the penalty for an assault against a health care practitioner in which there is bodily injury from a second-degree misdemeanor to a second-degree felony.

“Violence against employees is much more prevalent in health care settings than in most other professions. Every member of the health care community deserves the peace of mind to know they are better protected against the threat of being attacked at work,” said Ward, who is a registered nurse.

The Senate passed the bill in October, and it was approved by the House and sent to the governor Tuesday.

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