Health care workplace safety study endorsed

Kevin Landrigan, The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester
·2 min read

Mar. 15—CONCORD — Medical professionals urged lawmakers to convene a study into improving workplace safety in health care settings.

Violence against health care workers has only risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Paula Minnehan, vice president of state government relations with the New Hampshire Hospital Association.

A proposed 20-member commission would compile a comprehensive report on these incidents, explore barriers to making reports, and consider whether to recommend stiffer criminal penalties for these assaults.

"We need all of those stakeholders at the table to really come up with the right approach," Minnehan told the Senate Ways and Means Committee Monday.

Joan Widmer, the former executive director of the New Hampshire Nurses Association, said nationally that 73% of workplace violence victims come from health care and, in 20% of those cases, the injured worker is off the job or on disability for at least one month.

One in four nurses have reported experiencing violence more than 20 times over the past three years, Widmer said.

"There's no other way to put it: workplace violence is a big issue in health care," Widmer said.

The hospital commission concept from Sen. James Gray, R-Rochester, is one of six different studies contained in a single bill (SB 100).

Other studies propose looking into charitable gambling, the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns, payments in lieu of local property taxes paid by non-profits, the cost of schooling children who live in a residential treatment center and whether to build a pier over the jetty at Hampton Beach State Park to improve access for the disabled.

Frisbie death the latest workplace tragedy

Last December, Richard Semo, 64, of Farmington died from head injuries he suffered while working as a security officer at Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

Prosecutors are planning to charge Tyler Thurston, 29, of New Durham, with manslaughter for punching Semo, who fell to the ground in the parking lot last Dec. 13.

Semo suffered a skull fracture and brain bleed, dying from those injuries five days after the assault.

Jeff Scionti, Frisbie's CEO, spoke of the growing trend during Monday's hearing.

"Violence has increased along with a rise in behavior and drug-induced psychoses that we are seeing," Scionti said.

"Despite these troubling trends, response has not been up to where it should be."

On charitable gambling, Peter Bragdon, a lobbyist representing Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, said past studies concluded the state had inadequate manpower to police 300 table events a year at 16 different locations that support charities.

"There is a significant deficiency in charitable gaming regulation," Bragdon said.

Rick Newman with the N.H. Charitable Gaming Operators Association said his group supports the study, but he maintained since the state lottery took over enforcement of these games, it has more than tripled the staff.

"This narrative that charitable gaming is poorly enforced is just false," Newman added.

klandrigan@unionleader.com