A Dallas lawmaker is pushing new legislation that would tighten restrictions on hospital visits for people on parole in response to October’s fatal hospital shooting in Oak Cliff.
House Bill 3547 is part of a package of legislation known as the Pokuaa-Flowers Act, named after two workers at Methodist Dallas Medical Center who were shot and killed in October. The bill would prohibit anyone on parole from visiting a hospital for purposes other than emergency care unless permission is granted by a parole officer.
If permission is granted, the bill says a hospital will face no liability if the person commits a violent act.
The legislation comes about four months after police said Nestor Hernandez shot and killed Jaqueline Pokuaa, 45, and Katie Flowers, 63, after pistol-whipping his girlfriend while she was in the hospital’s maternity ward. Hernandez — who state prison officials said was on parole with an ankle monitor at the time — had been given permission to be at the hospital for his girlfriend’s birth on the day of the shooting.
The legislative package was sponsored by state Rep. Rafael Anchía, D-Dallas, who called the shooting a systemic failure.
“In this case, police arrested, law enforcement jailed [him],” Anchía told reporters at a news conference Monday. “It was the rest of the system that really failed.”
The package of bills also includes HB 3548, which would increase the criminal penalties for assaulting any hospital staff, and HB 3549, which would increase the penalties for people on parole who remove an ankle monitor.
“Our hospitals must be safe havens and our hospital workers must be protected,” Anchía said.
The legislation was praised by Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia, who attended Monday’s news conference at Dallas Police Department headquarters.
“What is in place now is not working and has cost lives,” Garcia said. “This bill is a start to holding our most violent offenders accountable for their actions, and most importantly, a start to saving lives from violent acts.”
Steve Love, the president of the Dallas Fort Worth Hospital Council, said he appreciated the proposed legislation. He also cited a report by the American Hospital Association which states that 68% of nurses experience verbal abuse and in some cases physical violence.
“We understand that emotions are high — also sometimes it’s the best day of your life,” Love said. “It’s kind of a tough balancing act, in many cases, to have the safeguards you need for safety, and to have a safe environment and sanctuary for people to visit.”
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