OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An ER nurse is speaking out and asking questions, nearly a year after he was attacked in his emergency room. He’s angry his attacker now only faces a misdemeanor instead of a felony charge, after an act passed two years ago increasing prison time and fines for assaults on health care professionals.

“Those laws are only as good as the people in the power to make it work,” said Todd Mason, the ER Nurse.

On January 11, 2022, Todd Mason says a patient attacked him in the ER. Court documents show it was 19-year-old Zachary Griffin.

Zachary Griffin. Image courtesy Oklahoma County Detention Center.

“When he was sitting on the side of the bed, he kicked some water, punched me in the face,” said Mason. “I went to try to get him back in the bed, slipped on the water, went down on all fours.”

That’s when, Todd said, the punches really started flying.

“Once in the face, a bunch of times on the back, head, neck,” he said.

The assault left Todd with a busted lip and a fractured spine.

“I did not have to have surgeries, not knock on wood, but went to physical therapy for two months,” said Mason. “Takes me a little longer to get out of bed in the morning.”

As for Griffin, he faced felony assault and battery charges.

In 2020, the Medical Care Provider Protection Act passed in Oklahoma. It increased the penalty for felony assaults on health care professionals to include more prison time and a fine of up to $1,000.

However, court records now show the felony Griffin faced is just a misdemeanor, with court costs and a $500 fine.

“How does that feel?” asked News 4. “Like I was getting punched again,” said Mason.

Todd’s Manager, Tesha Loven, said the assault was the third to happen just that week.

“We’ve had about ten assaults in the E.R. that we’ve reported this last year,” said Loven. “So my big question is, have they all been downgraded to misdemeanor or minor offenses with this $500 fine?”

Integris and the Oklahoma Nurses Association told News 4 this is a nationwide problem.

“Workplace violence against employees is a growing issue across the nation and across industries. With the high emotions that surround injury and illness in general, health care workers are increasingly becoming victims of such attacks. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 73% of all workplace violence incidents that result in injury and time away from work – occur in a health care setting. At INTEGRIS Health, we take acts of aggression against our caregivers very seriously. We provide extensive training on how to deescalate situations, post signs describing the consequences of this type of violence and offer our full support to impacted caregivers. We look forward to working in partnership with local legislators and judicial leaders to address this escalating concern.” – Integris

Image courtesy anonymous viewer.

“It is tragic every time a nurse experiences any kind of violence in the line of duty.  Unfortunately, nurses and other health care workers experience higher rates of violence than other workers.  In fact, one in four nurses experience workplace violence.  Violent acts affect all involved including other patients who may not receive the care they deserve.  

ONA has advocated to support policy to increase penalties for those that assault healthcare workers.  In addition, facilities have posted signage telling the public that violence against nurses and other health care workers will not be tolerated. It is our hope that assaults against nurses and health care workers remain a felony and not be downgraded.” – Oklahoma Nurses Association.

Todd still loves his job, but wants more accountability.

“We’re there to help not fight,” said Mason.

News 4 reached out to the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office several times over two days, but did not hear back.

News 4 also called the suspect’s attorney twice but we did not hear back.