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A bill modifying Oklahoma statute related to protection of first responders passed the House on Friday with a vote of 75-3.
House Bill 2938, authored by State Representative Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa, and Senator Greg McCortney, R-Ada, amends the circumstances under which records related to a public health investigation may be released.
If the State Department of Health determines that releasing a patient’s records is necessary to protect the public health, it may only do so if the release is authorized under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Dills said this aligns Oklahoma statute with federal law.
“This helps our first responders know when they might be making a call to a place where someone has tested positive for COVID-19 or another communicable disease so they can be properly equipped and prepared,” Dills said.
She said in the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak many first responders ran low of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves. This measure will help them know when using such equipment is a necessity and conserve it when it is not needed.
“Our first responders have willingly put themselves in harm’s way and worked long hours to ensure the public is safe and treated when there is an emergency,” she said. “We want to be able to ensure they are safe as well.”
McCortney said, “While law enforcement and other first responders have been able to get this information during Oklahoma’s catastrophic health emergency, HB 2938 makes sure this can continue once the emergency order ends.
There will still be positive cases after that happens so first responders will still need to know if they’re answering a call that requires PPE. This will also help us be better prepared if there’s another pandemic.”
HB 2938 previously passed in the House and was amended in the Senate. With the approval of the amendment in the House, the bill now moves to the governor’s desk to await being signed into law.