Safer Hospitals Act, other new laws take effect in Ga.

Published: Jul. 6, 2023 at 5:48 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - With a new law going into effect this month, the workplace may have just gotten safer for many healthcare workers, specifically those in hospitals.

The new law is two-fold.

The first part allows hospitals to establish their own police force, and the other adds hospital employees outside the emergency to an already existing list of people that have extra legal protection against assault and battery.

People that are convicted of committing assault or battery specifically against emergency room workers, paramedics, and law enforcement officers already face more severe criminal penalties in the State of Georgia.

Now, other healthcare workers on hospital campuses will have those same legal protections.

Under the Safer Hospitals Act, an assault or battery conviction against a protected person would carry a sentence of three to 20 years in prison.

During testimony, Representative Jesse Petrea said he heard stories of hospital workers being assaulted, attacked, sometimes in relation to gang activity.

“These are not the places, on hospital campuses, to have that kind of misbehavior, especially when they’re attacking and literally assaulting hospital workers, who by the way, we’re struggling to have enough of,” Petrea said.

The new law also allows for hospitals to form their own police force, given that they’re staffed by POST certified law enforcement officers.

In a time where hospitals are struggling to recruit and retain staff, Petrea says that he hopes the new law will deter people from bringing criminal behavior into hospitals.

“There are people that might feel unsafe working in an environment like that, and that makes it harder and harder for people to get the care they need. So I think this, incrementally, along with other tools, is a way to help us deal with workforce.”

The law overwhelmingly passed in the House and the Senate, with 170 yes votes in the house and 46 yes votes in the Senate.

New rideshare insurance requirement

If you find yourself taking taxis or even rideshare services like Uber or Lyft often, this one’s for you.

A new law has taken effect in Georgia that decreases the amount of insurance coverage those types of companies have to carry, and it could affect your ability to get a ride.

When all is said and done with the new insurance regulations, Lateef Olubajo, who owns Savannah Taxi and a local rideshare service, believes that he will actually be able to hire more drivers, and in turn, make transportation more available in the Coastal Empire.

Taxi and rideshare companies used to have to carry up to a million dollars of coverage for anyone injured in an accident.

Under this new law, that number has dropped to $300,000.

Olubajo says that insurance used to be one of his biggest expenses, but now, it won’t be as much of a worry.

That frees up the money to hire more drivers, which would expand the availability of transportation, as well as create jobs.

“It’s beyond what’s expected. So it should make some changes in terms of companies providing more jobs for people, especially the taxi companies,” Olubajo said.

Olabju says he doesn’t believe that the reduced coverage is something for riders to worry about, saying that $300,000 is still well in the range of a full coverage policy.