Mandatory tests could save agonising wait

Mandatory tests could save agonising wait

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The state opposition was calling for a new law which would make blood tests mandatory for prisoners who bite or spit on prison officers.

Between 2008 and 2012 across the state there were 414 assaults against staff with nine serious assaults occurring from 2013–14.

Opposition leader Mark McGowan announced the policy last week, which he said would give prison officers the same protections as WA police.

The mandatory testing (infectious diseases) Bill 2014 required offenders who bit or spat at WA police officers to undergo a blood test.

The testing meant officers would only need to wait a few days to see if they were exposed to an infectious disease like HIV or Hep B.

The laws did not cover other frontline staff like prison or ambulance officers.

In March a prison officer was bitten and head-butted by an inmate and was forced to wait six months for blood test results to see if she had contracted a disease.

Mr McGowan said given the similar risks prison officers should be afforded the same protection as police officers.

“We take care of our police in these situations so it’s only right that we take care of our prison officers, paramedics and medical staff,” he said.

“They do a tough job in difficult conditions, where there is a real threat of confrontation.

“When prison officers are bitten or spat on by violent prisoners the wait for test results is agonising.

“These changes will mean they won’t have to wait for months and can get on with their lives without lingering concerns.”

The Department of Corrective Services was contacted but did not respond before deadline.