BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A panel of Idaho senators agree that health care professionals need more safeguards against assaults from violent patients. The Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee approved a bill intended to protect doctors and nurses who face physical threats on the job.

Coeur d'Alene Rep. Luke Malek said emergency room workers frequently face assaults from violent patients, including prescription drug addicts. Under the measure, anyone attacking a doctor could face felony charges and up to five years in prison. Such an offense is a misdemeanor under existing law.

Malek says the beefed-up penalties would serve as a deterrent. Boise Sen. Elliot Werk said he's concerned more felony cases would boost costs for the state. He said the bill also needs to more clarity on how mentally ill patients might be impacted.