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Task force examining violence against healthcare workers releases report

On Wednesday, the task force presented its recommendations to the Legislature.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The state of Maine's task force studying violence against healthcare workers says this is a national issue, and one that those who work in the healthcare industry are seeing more and more.

"Hearing the stories of Mainers who are having to struggle with these issues and having to deal with this violence, that just makes it a little more personal," former Sen. Ned Claxton said.

On Wednesday, the state's violence against healthcare workers task force presented its findings to the Health and Human Services Committee.

The task force's report included the following recommendations:

  • Expanding protections against healthcare workers to include anyone who is working in the hospital settingnot just doctors or nurses.
  • Increasing the number of community or mental health placements so folks aren't stuck in hospitals for weeks or months on end.
  • Looking for ways to encourage healthcare providers to report these assaults, while also being able to keep their privacy.

At least two of the recommendations are already being proposed as new legislation by Rep. Anne Perry, D-Calais.

"The other piece of it is these patients are getting no treatment, they're just being held," Perry said.

Perry and Claxton are both retired healthcare workers and said this is something just about every healthcare provider has to deal with at some point in their career. They added because of that, this is something healthcare students should be learning about.

"Some of that is learning to work with people and learning how to de-escalate a very serious situation you may find yourself in," Perry said.

Jenny McCarthy and Carly Mahaffey sat and listened to Wednesday's presentation by the task force. They said afterward they were frustrated and that there are other people's voices that need to be in these conversations: the patients.

Both women said they were assaulted by healthcare workers because of a mental health-related concern during an emergency medical visit.

"Assumptions were made and I decided that I was leaving, I didn't want to stay any longer, and when I attempted to leave I was taken to the floor by security and held face down on the floor ... Only because I said I wanted to leave," McCarthy said.

Sen. Joe Baldacci, D-Penobscot, who is the senate chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, said he hopes to push all these recommendations forward. But he also hopes to discuss options for civil suits against folks accused of assaulting healthcare workers much like the way protection orders work. 

All of these recommendations and changes will be discussed at an upcoming work session. 

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