New IL law boosts protections for nurses, other health workers from violence, liability risk for hospitals, others

By John Breslin | Jan 9, 2019

CHICAGO – New legislation that was enacted following two high-profile attacks on nurses in 2017 came into effect at the turn of the year.

Hospitals and other health care providers now must abide by certain regulations aimed at curbing the potential for violence against employees under the Illinois Health Care Violence Prevention Act.

It was enacted following attacks on nurses at Delnor Hospital in Geneva and St. Joseph Hospital in Joliet. Both involved inmates who escaped and held the nurses hostage. In the Geneva incident, one nurse was beaten and raped.

The Act also affects "custodial agencies," including correctional facilities, which must, in tandem with health care providers, establish protocols when inmates are transferred to hospital.

Neil Dishman   Jackson Lewis

Neil Dishman, a principal attorney with Chicago employment law firm Jackson Lewis, said the Act does place "more burdens" on health care providers that do not already have a comprehensive workplace safety plan.

"I would like to think it will make a difference," Dishman told the Cook County Record.

The attorney said one major change from a liability perspective is that employees of health care providers, which under the Act includes retailers such as CVS and veterans' facilities, are "expressly protected" by the existing Illinois Whistleblower Act.

"If somebody makes a report of an act of violence - by a patient or by a fellow of staff member - they will be protected from retaliation," Dishman explained.

Dishman said he does not believe the Act will increase the threat of legal actions against health care providers, but they will have to provide post-incident services, including treatment and counseling. The Act does not define from whom and how these will be provided, the attorney said.

The Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital nurse taken hostage in May 2017 by inmate Tywon Salters received a $7.2 million settlement after she sued Kane County, a guard from the Kane County Sheriff's Office and Apex 3 Security LLC, the hospital's security contractor.

A second nurse at the hospital received $650,000 and two others $25,000 each, according to the Daily Herald, which used a Freedom of Information Act request to unearth information on the settlement.

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