News, Patient Care, Trauma

Rescuers’ Attackers Could Face Crackdown

OKLAHOMA CITY — Both houses of the state Legislature this week unanimously approved a bill to make an assault on emergency medical providers a felony offense.

If Gov. Brad Henry signs House Bill 1360, the maximum penalty for assault on medical personnel would increase from a year to two years of incarceration. The maximum fine would remain $1,000.

“Paramedics have a dangerous job,” said Lara O’Leary spokeswoman for the Emergency Medical Services Authority. “Oftentimes, they struggle with patients who have had head injuries, overdosing on medication or something that causes them to be violent. … Hopefully, this will enter into the minds of anyone who thinks they can get away with attacking a paramedic.”

Fourteen paramedics in Tulsa and Oklahoma City suffered serious injuries from attacks by patients in 2008, according to EMSA. O’Leary said she didn’t know whether the bill would deter attackers, but she hopes paramedics will feel lawmakers are taking seriously the safety of first-responders.

The bill defines emergency medical providers as doctors, residents, interns, nurses, nurses’ aides, ambulance attendants and operators, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and members of a hospital security force.