Martha Marx


Martha Marx



November 1, 2023
For Immediate Release                                                                            Contact
November 1, 2023                                                      Joe O’Leary 508-479-4969

Advocates call for change in wake of killing of visiting nurse Joyce Grayson
State Senators Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor) and Martha Marx (D-New London), Senate Chair and Vice Chair of the Public Health Committee, led the call Wednesday for increased protections for health care workers amid continually rising violence faced in the profession, putting those who heal us at risk of injury and worse. This latest call, echoed after similar efforts in past legislative sessions, comes after the tragic killing of Connecticut visiting nurse Joyce Grayson while visiting a patient in Willimantic on October 28.

The Senators led a number of legislators and advocates including Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven); Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz; State Representative Cristin McCarthy-Vahey (D-Bridgeport, Fairfield), House Chair of the Public Health Committee; State Senator Henri Martin (R-Bristol); John Brady, a registered nurse with the AFT Connecticut; Kim Sandor of the Connecticut Association of Nurses and Tracy Wodatch of the Connecticut Association For Healthcare at Home.

“We have been trying to get safer protocols in our homes for decades, I’ve worked for it for 20 years,” said Sen. Marx, who is a visiting nurse and the union president of AFT Local 5119 Southeastern Connecticut for registered nurses and home aides. “Things will get a little better, then time passes and the safety of the staff is not the number one thing anymore. We need to remember the safety of staff and patients. This goes for social workers and therapists, as well as aides and attendants. They are often the most vulnerable, they are often women of color, English may be their second language and they may be in homes for months at a time. If they are assaulted, they don’t report it because they need their job. Reported numbers of assaults are not accurate, as we don’t have to report them. We need to be able to report assaults and bad behavior. We need to make sure we have data to know how safe or unsafe staff is out there. The death of this visiting nurse – she went to work and she died. That should never happen. We need to make sure safety training matches what workers meet in the home. We need to make sure in-home care has two people entering a home for safety. We will pass legislation with this nurse in our hearts, but while health care workers are saddened, we are not surprised. We want to take care of everybody, but we need to make sure we are safe and that our patients are safe.”

“We know health care workers and health care systems have not been immune to violence; we have heard clearly from them that they have been kicked, punched, spit on and faced physical threats. This is the reality for individuals every day in those systems,” said Sen. Anwar, who is a medical doctor with specializations in treating lung diseases and critical care medicine. “Up to one quarter of all health care professionals have considered leaving the industry due to violence. Health care workers have it in their instincts, are trained, to care for others before themselves. The state has to take it upon itself to help our health care workers.”

“In the most recent legislative session,” Sen. Anwar continued, “we passed a law that will require the Department of Public Health to create a public service campaign about abuse of health care workers through various means and promote a security grant program for health care facilities. We must also take care of those who work in the homes of our community members. Others’ homes are their workplace and they are not safe. Up to 44% of home health workers have reported physical assault. This is a moment where in health care, more people are receiving care at home. We need to make sure there is zero tolerance and that our workers remain safe.”

“The security and safety of people who provide care in homes will be an increasing problem as hospital stays become shorter, more individuals are released to recover at home and more patients are being cared for at home, including with hospice care,” said Sen. Looney. “That is a growing trend. We need to work on issues like these because we need to look at the consequences of growing trends, and while this is a good thing – people like being in their homes and recover better there – we need to make sure those who care for them there are able to do so safely and without concern. We need to provide security for home care as we set up strategies for home care to succeed.”

Proposals for legislation suggested by legislators and health care workers included developing new protocols for home care workers to have safety checks on patients before entering their homes, new risk strategies for homes and neighborhoods and strengthening of safety committees to aid workers in the event of risk. Further suggestions included stratification for health care workers who enter homes; training health care workers to be ready and know how to remain safe when working in-home, reflecting the reality of the care they experience; and payment reform, as current models are not sustainable as health care models shift to more home care.

Legislators gathered on Wednesday in response to the killing of Connecticut visiting nurse Joyce Grayson in a Willimantic halfway house on October 28 after arriving to take care of a patient. A suspect in the case who was staying at the halfway house is in police custody.

Amid a general rise in violence against health care workers, with 48% of nurses reporting increases in workplace violence in 2022 according to National Nurses United and 40% of health care workers experiencing incidents of workplace violence in 2021 and 2022, home health care workers, who often enter patients’ homes alone, are at significant risk. Anywhere from 18 to 65% of home health care workers reported experiencing verbal abuse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and up to 44% have reported being physically assaulted. Threats against home care workers often correlate to patients with histories of violence, mental illness or substance use disorder.

Caption: State Senator Martha Marx speaks Wednesday advocating for health protections for health care workers.