Sunday, December 5, 2021

Police personnel to be better protected by Mandatory Disease Testing Bill

Police will be better protected following assaults after the Mandatory Disease Testing Bill 2020 was passed through both houses of NSW Parliament.

A Mandatory Testing Order will be issued if a police officer or frontline worker has been exposed to bodily fluid as a result of a deliberate action. The subject of the order will be required to provide a blood sample if there is a risk the worker could contract a disease.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said this is an important safeguard for those workers who put themselves in harm’s way to keep our community safe.

“Attacks on police and frontline workers are not only disgusting and traumatising in their own right, but the weeks and months of uncertainty that follow cause an excessive amount of stress and anxiety for the victims and their families,” Mr Elliott said.

“This law will reduce the time it takes to find out if a frontline worker has been exposed to a blood-borne disease like HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C, from months to days and allow them and their family to get back to life as normal.”

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The scheme will be available to frontline workers including the NSW Police Force, Corrective Services NSW, Youth Justice NSW, Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Rural Fire Service, State Emergency Service, NSW Health, St John Ambulance and the Office of the Sheriff of NSW.

NSW Police Force Commissioner Mick Fuller APM said the waiting period between testing and obtaining results for blood borne disease is often a secondary trauma for officers who are assaulted on duty.

“It is a sad fact that last year there were more than 2,500 incidents of assaults against police on duty and many of them needed to be tested for blood borne disease,” Commissioner Fuller said.

“The waiting periods between testing and obtaining results can be enormously stressful for officers and their families.

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“Police who put their lives on the line every day deserve urgent answers to alleviate the stress of not knowing and to allow them to seek treatment as soon as possible.”

Police Association of NSW President Tony King commended the passage of the legislation.

“All too often the interests of Police and other frontline workers are not given the priority they should be, in situations where they are the victims and are left to deal with uncertainty and risk,” Mr King said.

“What matters most now is that there will be a balance of medical information made available, rather than placing all of the burden and unjust mental pressures on our members, their families and loved ones.”

A Mandatory Testing Order will require the subject of the order to provide a blood sample within two days or face a maximum penalty of more than $10,000 and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.

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