A new piece of legislation making it mandatory for medical staff to report stab wounds and gunshots to police has been greeted with open arms by the officer in charge of Red Deer City RCMP.
Supt. Brian Simpson says such police reporting has never been “a big issue,” but that it has been an issue and one he’s encountered before.
“This just helps provide clarity where there wasn’t some before,” said Simpson, adding it will help facilitate criminal investigations.
“There is that concern for public safety, because when these things aren’t dealt with they tend to spill over.”
Previously, it was up to a doctor or nurse’s discretion whether to report such injuries, which sometimes didn’t happen, said Simpson.
This new direction ultimately protects medical staff, he said.
“There’s no ‘can we, should we,’ wanting to do all the right things, but also wanting to protect the well-being of the patient, protect the job.”
The new rules started April 1, and according to the province enable police to “take immediate steps to prevent further violence, injury or death,” according to a news release.
“This legislation is a good balance between a patient’s right to privacy of health information and law enforcement’s need for information to help keep the public safe,” Frank Oberle, Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security, said in the release.
The legislation allows the police to only be given the patient’s name, location of the health facility and type of wound, and not any medical charts or files, something Simpson says police aren’t interested in anyway.
The legislation applies to hospitals, medical clinics, doctors’ offices and ambulance personnel, so long as police haven’t already been informed of the situation.
The Solicitor General’s office says that evidence from other provinces with similar legislation — Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia — doesn’t indicate that people wounded in stabbings or shootings are afraid to seek medical treatment if health-care workers are compelled to inform police.