Nova Scotians will have more protection against communicablediseases and known health hazards as well as new and emergingpublic health threats under legislation introduced today, Oct.23, by Health Minister Angus MacIsaac. The proposed Health Protection Act will provide the legalframework for public health officials to protect the public andto prevent, detect, manage and contain health threats withoutunduly interfering with civil rights and liberties. “In the face of new and highly contagious diseases such as SARS,the current legislation is no longer adequate,” said Mr.MacIsaac. “Now, more than ever, we need to know that the peopleprotecting us have the legislative tools they need to manage andcontain whatever Mother Nature throws our way.” Mr. MacIsaac said the bill gives the province’s medical officersof health the appropriate powers needed to deal with known andunknown public health threats. The bill also reinforces graduatedresponse and due process to ensure that the rights of NovaScotians are protected as much as reasonably possible. “We commend the Department for Health for moving forward withlegislation to better protect the health and safety of thegeneral public and health-care workers,” said Carolyn Moore,executive director of the College of Registered Nurses of NovaScotia. “This act is more responsive to current and future publichealth priorities, and should enable the province’s public healthprofessionals, including public health nurses, to better dealwith outbreaks or other public health threats.” “The new act will allow us to protect public health in a balancedand contemporary way. It puts us in a much better position torespond to public health threats for the good of all NovaScotians,” said Dr. Maureen Baikie, associate provincial medicalofficer of health. The bill gives the minister of Health the authority to declare apublic health emergency in cases where the Emergency Measures Actis not needed but where there is a serious and imminent threat tohealth. In such circumstances, the minister would have additionalpower to set up isolation or quarantine facilities, controlsupplies of vaccines and medical supplies and use other similarmeasures to contain the spread of an illness. The bill also allows the medical officer of health to temporarilydetain a person with a highly communicable disease who is a riskto others and who will not comply with direction from the medicalofficer of health. A longer lasting solution will then need to besought through a court order. In addition to these changes, the bill consolidates existinglegislation on food safety under the Health Protection Act.Enforcement of food safety regulations will continue to be theresponsibility of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.Enforcement of water and environmental regulations will continueto be the responsibility of the Department of Environment andLabour. The new Health Protection Act is consistent with some of the bestpublic health legislation in the country.