VICTORIA - Emergency workers will be able to access information about potential disease exposure with legislation introduced today by the Honourable Margaret MacDiarmid, Minister of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government.
The nature of the work done by emergency personnel means they are at a higher risk of coming into contact with other peoples' bodily substances. This puts them in a situation where they can be exposed to serious communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
The Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act will:
- Enable emergency workers and Good Samaritans to get a court order to require individuals to give a bodily fluid sample, if one is not given voluntarily.
- Protect privacy by assuring information is shared in confidence only.
- Set penalties for non-compliance of testing orders and privacy provisions.
- Establish a presumption of disease exposure for first responders seeking workers' compensation benefits.
Margaret MacDiarmid, Minister of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government -
"First responders put their lives on the line every day to keep the people of British Columbia safe, so it's important we support them in every way we can.
"This legislation will give workers and their families the peace of mind they deserve."
Norm Letnick, MLA, Kelowna-Lake Country -
"It has been a privilege to have worked with my local and provincial firefighters and paramedics over the past three years on this bill. This bill improves the balance between the right to privacy of individuals and the right to know among those who may be impacted by the transfer of bodily fluids."
Tom Stamatakis, president, Canadian Police Association and Vancouver Police Union -
"This bill will provide assistance to maintaining the safety of not only police officers, but all front-line officers. It is important to identify that this bill also protects the general public's right to privacy."
Bronwyn Barter, president, Ambulance Paramedics of BC -
"Our paramedics and partners in police and fire are exposed to needle-stick injuries or blood splashes routinely, and not being able to find out in a timely manner whether or not you've been exposed to a blood-borne illness can cause a great deal of stress. We have the right to know."
"We appreciate the work the entire house has done on this issue - it's an example of truly putting workers' safety first."
Michael Hurley, president, B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association -
"This act is designed to protect the emergency responders who without hesitation and on a daily basis will put themselves in harm's way to protect every citizen in the province. This lets responders in B.C. be protected with the same rights as other Canadian Provinces. The BCPFFA thanks the government, and especially MLA Norm Letnick for recognizing the importance of this bill and for moving it forward."
- Here's an example of when this legislation might apply: A paramedic attends a car crash and cuts his arm on the wreckage while assisting injured passengers. During this time, the blood of an injured passenger comes in contact with the paramedic's open wound. If the individual refuses to give a blood sample for testing, the paramedic could use this legislation to obtain one.
- Health-care officials report the vast majority of people already agree to be voluntarily tested. However, in cases where they do not, this legislation will ensure first responders get the information they need.
- Similar legislation exists in six other provinces: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
- Regulations will be developed to test for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
- Between 1987 and 2011, WorkSafeBC accepted 227 claims for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV exposures. Of those claims, 47 were from first responders.
Ministry of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government