Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong talks about new provincial legislation that allows first responders to seek court orders to obtain medical records after coming into contact with someone else’s bodily fluids. The announcement

First responder protection law clashes with privacy rights

Bill not useful to protect emergency workers, says B.C. privacy watchdog

The B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner is slamming a law aimed at ensuring that first responders have more peace of mind for their health and safety.

Elizabeth Denham says the Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act, has a “serious impact on the privacy rights of individuals.”

Bill 39, which was passed in May, allows police officers, firefighters and paramedics to seek a  court order to access someone else’s medical records if the first responder has come into contact with bodily fluids.

“A lot of members in the course of their duty are bitten, stuck with a hypodermic needle, they get into an altercation and there’s an exchange of blood – you yourself may be cut or the suspect may be bleeding,” said Saanich police chief Mike Chadwick. “It’s going to be for those types of situations where … you don’t know whether they have a communicable disease like HIV, or hep C or hep B.”

Chadwick acknowledged that in instances where a first responder contacts bodily fluid, the other individual typically co-operates and provides relevant medical information. Bill 39 is to access the medical records of those who don’t co-operate.

Denham says that the bill will not be useful, as there are “very few instances where emergency responders contract communicable diseases.”

“Government should only contemplate a privacy intrusion of this nature where there is a significant demonstrated need,” she wrote in a letter to Margaret MacDiarmid, minister of labour, citizens’ services and open government.

“Any initiative that limits (an individual’s right to control their bodily integrity) must strike a balance between the reasonableness of restricting an individual’s liberties with the commensurate need to infringe them. I do not see such a balance within Bill 39.”

At a press conference Tuesday held at Saanich fire hall No. 1, Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong, surrounded by 27 of the region’s first responders, championed the bill, spearheaded by Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MLA Norm Letnick.

“There are issues of privacy that are still there, but the worst thing is that you’re exposed and you don’t know what you have,” Chong said. “And you are maybe taking a number of medications that you don’t need to take because you don’t know what you’ve been exposed to.”

In her letter, Denham writes that the time it will take for a judge to make a decision will be well past the ideal “immediate post-exposure treatment” timeline.

“It would likely be several weeks before (a first responder) would receive test results indicating whether an individual they had been in contact with had a communicable disease,” she wrote. “This would essentially negate any benefit to the emergency responder from a compelled test result.”

Oak Bay deputy police chief Kent Thom says the legislation is not meant as a privacy invasion, but as a means to protect first responders who are just doing their jobs.

“It’ll give our members more confidence in the fact that they’re a little bit better protected, and their families and the general public will be, too,” he said. “It simply puts our members in a better position when they are out there doing what is required to keep the community safe.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

 

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City frustrated as truck lodged under bridge one week after Victoria installs new signage

Dozens of trucks and buses have hit the E&N Rail bridge on Hereward Road

Police watchdog looking for witnesses to arrests in Victoria’s inner harbour

One male left injured after arrests near Red Fish Blue Fish

Speaker ‘will not tolerate illegal activity’ on B.C. legislature grounds, says chief of staff

Chief of staff to the B.C. speaker Alan Mullen says situation with demonstrators appears ‘fluid’

Clothing, jewelry, purses: RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 25

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Ryan nets hat trick in return as Senators beat Canucks 5-2

Ottawa winger received assistance for admitted alcohol problem

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

Neither party speaking on the groundwork laid for tomorrow’s talks

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Dates back to 2009: Calgary police lay charges in fraud involving semi-trucks

Three people from Calgary are facing charges that include fraud over $5,000

Comox 442 Squadron carries out two sea rescue missions north of Vancouver Island

Submitted by Lt. Alexandra Hejduk Special to Black Press 442 Transport and… Continue reading

Most Read