AHS document surfaces on how to apprehend & detain COVID-19 patients

An anonymous source forwarded a document to me that indicated Alberta Health Services can detain people they think might have COVID-19 but who refuse to get tested.

An anonymous source forwarded to me yesterday a document that was recently created and distributed by Alberta Health Services.

The document was last updated on 25 June 2020 and approved by Alberta’s Emergency Coordination Centre 5 days later.

You can see the original document at the end of this story.

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It outlines the process for apprehending and detaining anyone who refuses to self isolate if they meet one of the following 3 criteria:

  • They have a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • They’ve been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case COVID-19
  • They have symptoms of COVID-19

For the medical officer of health to issue a Section 39 Certificate, they must receive a request for the certificate from a physician, community health nurse, midwife, or nurse practitioner.

The health care worker submits the request for someone they know—or even just suspect—has COID-19 yet refuses a medical exam to confirm infection, refuses treatment, or refuses to comply with other conditions prescribed by a physician.

Once the medical officer of health receives the request, they think about whether less restrictive measures can be taken, such as education or support from other agencies.

If they decide to proceed with a certificate, they contact the medical director of the designated facility where the detention would occur to ensure the detention can occur and to notify them once the patient has arrived.

They then complete the certificate and send copies to that medical director, as well as to the local police service.

The certificate authorizes a “peace officer” from the local police service to apprehend the patient within 7 days of the certificate being issued, who then transports them to the designated medical facility.

Once the patient arrives at the facility, the medical director there tells the patient why a certificate was issued and that they have the right to retain and instruct counsel. They also provide them with a copy of section 39 of the Public Health Act.

It also authorizes a physician to perform any test or exam to determine whether the patient has COVID-19, as well as to treat the patient if they do have it, regardless of whether the patient consents to the testing or treatment.

The attending physician can detain the patient—with the help of AHS protective services—for up to 7 days after being admitted. However, that 7-days can be extended if the patient tests positive and must be isolated.

If the test comes back negative, the patient must be released “as soon as possible”.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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