New legislation will allow compulsory testing for communicable diseases of individuals who expose police, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency responders to bodily substances. The Alberta government is moving to protect emergency responders by introducing new rules to provide access to information that can help in assessing their risk of contracting communicable diseases when exposed to body fluids.
Beginning October 1, Alberta’s Mandatory Testing and Disclosure Act will allow peace officers, firefighters, paramedics and “Good Samaritans” providing emergency assistance to apply for a court order to obtain a blood sample for testing from an individual who may have exposed them to HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C.
The court order will also enable Alberta’s chief medical officer of health to check the individual’s health record as a first step. Any pertinent information would be shared with the emergency responder’s designated physician.
“This legislation responds to a request from emergency responders whose health may be put at risk in the performance of their duties,” said Thomas Lukaszuk, MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs. “This new process recognizes the important and valued roles they play in society.”
The Act builds on the Blood Samples Act, which was introduced as a private member’s bill by Lukaszuk. Changes include additional notice and appeal provisions, enhanced privacy protection, expansion of categories of applicants who may apply, and the application of a court-based procedure.
“This legislation provides the appropriate balance of meeting the needs of emergency responders, while protecting the privacy and rights as much as possible of the individuals who are required to undergo testing,” said David Hancock, Minister of Health and Wellness.
Additional information regarding the act, the supporting regulation and associated forms, including the application for testing order and physician’s report, is available online at www.health.alberta.ca.