Mandatory Disease Testing a futile and stigmatising exerciseHepatitis NSW firmly rejects the premise behind the proposed laws outlined in a joint media release – “Mandatory Disease Testing for Those Who Attack Frontline Workers” – issued yesterday by the offices of NSW Justice Ministers David Elliott, Anthony Roberts, and Mark Speakman.

Hepatitis NSW CEO Steven Drew said, “Hepatitis NSW strongly supports the wellbeing and safety of emergency services personnel. We agree they must be protected as much as possible in a high-level occupational risk environment.”

Mr Drew said, “This proposed Bill will not responsibly address the fundamental issue of risk to frontline workers.”

Any decision on mandatory testing should be based on medical and scientific evidence. The risk and likelihood of transmitting blood borne viruses (BBVs) – hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and HIV – through contact with saliva or spitting is effectively zero. Testing people who have not genuinely placed other people at risk is futile. The emergency worker may, in fact, miss out on health protections due to such a misinformed approach.”

Mr Drew said, “NSW has, until now, had a long and proud history of leadership in bipartisan, evidence-based, considered public policy responses that balance public health and individuals’ human rights. This proposed approach does a disservice to NSW as a national leader.”

Hepatitis NSW is extremely disappointed that this futile policy has been committed to by the government without consulting community organisations with history, knowledge, and experience in BBV responses. The policy will stigmatise communities and people affected by blood borne viruses, and potentially any frontline worker subject to the flawed response. There are no gains to be made for public health nor Work Health and Safety.”

“This is irresponsible and is not conducive to the development of evidence-based, reasoned policy responses,” said Mr Drew. Frontline workers’ work health and safety are best protected by a well-informed risk management approach; this includes vaccination for hepatitis B and, where any blood to blood exposure risk occurs, a rapid assessment and response by medical staff.”

For more information, please contact:

Hepatitis NSW
Steven Drew, CEO
sdrew@hep.org.au
0402 518 285