Patients whose blood comes into contact with a first responder will have to voluntarily provide a blood sample under a provincial law to come into force in 30 days.
Those who refuse can be compelled by court order to give one and, if they continue to contravene, will be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 under the Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act, which was passed in May 2012 and which comes into effect March 2.
The samples will be tested for communicable diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and the intention is to give "peace of mind" to ambulance personnel, firefighters, police and other emergency health service providers, said Minister of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training Pat Bell.
"In the last year, we've heard how important this legislation is to our first responders," Bell said in a statement issued Thursday. "These people put their lives on the line to save ours, so it's important we protect them in any way we can. While voluntary testing is always encouraged as a first step, it's nice to know that if they need it, first responders can get peace of mind through this legislation."
Victims of crime can also apply for a testing order and the government will pay the cost of taking, testing and analyzing the blood sample, as well as the cost to communicate test results under the act.
Test results will be communicated through physicians only, and results will not be made public. Individuals who violate the Act's confidentiality provision will be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 while the maximum for corporations will be $25,000.
Representatives of emergency responders have endorsed the legislation.
"This is an important step for B.C.'s paramedics and we are thankful for all the work that has
been done," said Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. president Bronwyn Barter.