Amendments will ensure an effective response to pandemic influenza

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Amendments are being proposed to four pieces of legislation to ensure government is able to respond effectively to an influenza pandemic. Mary Anne Jablonski, MLA Red Deer-North, introduced Bill 14, Pandemic Response Statutes Amendment Act, 2007 on March 12 in the legislature.

"This government is working to reduce the risk to Albertans during a pandemic," said Dave Hancock, Minister of Health and Wellness. "The proposed amendments provide us with the necessary authority to respond to a public health emergency in a timely and efficient manner."

Amendments are proposed to following Acts:

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Disaster Services Act The amendments will enable government to declare a state of emergency due to pandemic that will last up to 90 days instead of the 14 day declaration which is currently provided for. The declaration will lapse after 90 days unless it is continued by a resolution of the Legislative Assembly.

Public Health Act Amendments will enable government to declare a public health emergency due to pandemic that will last up to 90 days instead of the 30 day declaration which is currently provided for. The declaration will lapse after 90 days unless it is continued by a resolution of the Legislative Assembly. Amendments will allow the Minister responsible for an enactment, or, in their absence, the Minister of Health, to suspend or modify the application of legislation by Ministerial Order in order to facilitate effective pandemic preparation or response. Other amendments will improve enforcement mechanisms by allowing a medical officer of health quick access to the courts to enforce orders (e.g. a Regional Health Authority requires use of warehouse space to store emergency supplies and access is denied). An amendment will also ensure that people who are complying with an order or certificate issued under the Public Health Act during a public health emergency cannot be terminated from their employment just because of their compliance. During a pandemic this protection could also be extended to people who are ill with influenza, as well as to persons caring for sick family members.

Employment Standards Code An amendment will ensure that the remedies available under that Act are accessible to people who believe they have been wrongly suspended, terminated or laid off as a result of their compliance with an order or certificate issued under the Public Health Act during a public health emergency.

Government Organization Act An amendment will enable the Minister of Health and Wellness to authorize individuals or groups of individuals to perform restricted activities (e.g. immunization injections), whether registered with a college or not. During a public health emergency, health resources will likely be strained and skilled people may be called upon to work outside their normal scope of practice.

Ensuring that Alberta is ready to respond to a pandemic influenza supports Premier Stelmach's plan to provide safe and secure communities. Other priorities for the government are to govern with integrity and transparency, build a stronger Alberta, manage growth pressures, and improve Albertans' quality of life.

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