- Department of state government. The Department of Health is a department of state government. RCW 43.70.020.
- Secretary of Health. The Secretary shall be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the Governor in accordance with RCW 43.17.020. RCW 43.70.030.
B. Powers and Duties Related to Communicable Disease Control.
- Enforcement of laws and rules. The Secretary shall strictly enforce all laws for the protection of the public health and all rules, regulations, and orders of the State Board of Health. RCW 43.70.130(3).
- Investigation of outbreaks of disease and advice to local health officers. The Secretary shall investigate outbreaks and epidemics of disease and advise local health officers as to measures to be taken. RCW 43.70.130(5).
- Investigation of conditions constituting a threat to the public health. The Secretary may investigate, examine, sample or inspect any article or condition constituting a threat to the public health, including but not limited to outbreaks of communicable diseases. RCW 43.70.170. The investigation may include:
- Examination of ledgers, books, accounts, memorandums. Id.
- Free and unimpeded access. Id.
- Subpoenas. Id.
- Order prohibiting sale or disposition pending results of investigation. The Secretary may issue an order prohibiting the disposition or sale of any food or other item involved in the investigation. RCW 43.70.180. The order shall not be effective for more than fifteen (15) days without the commencement of legal action as provided for under RCW 43.70.190. Id.
- General supervision over work of local health departments. The Secretary shall exercise general supervision over the work of all local health departments and establish uniform reporting systems by local health officers to the state Department of Health. RCW 43.70.130(6).
- Determination of character of disease. If the question arises whether a person is sick with a dangerous, contagious or infectious disease, the opinion of the local health officer shall prevail until the state Department of Health is notified, and then the opinion of the executive officer of the state Department of Health or any physician he or she may appoint shall be final. RCW 70.05.100.
C. Enforcement Powers.
- Enforcement at request of local health officer. Upon the request of a local health officer, the Secretary is authorized to take legal action to enforce the public health laws, regulations of the State Board of Health, or local regulations within the jurisdiction served by the local health department, and may institute any civil legal proceeding including a proceeding under Title 7 RCW (Special proceedings and actions). RCW 43.70.200.
- Duty of Assistant Attorney General, Prosecuting Attorney, or City Attorney. It shall be the duty of each assistant attorney general, prosecuting attorney, or city attorney to whom the Secretary reports any violation of any provision of chapter 43.20 or 43.70 RCW, or regulations promulgated under them, to cause appropriate proceedings to be instituted. RCW 43.70.100.
D. Authority to Act in Local Matters.
- Action in lieu of local boards of health. The Secretary shall enforce the public health laws of the state and the regulations of the Department of Health or the State Board of Health in local matters when:
- An emergency exists; and
- The local board of health has failed to act with sufficient promptness or efficiency, or is unable to act, or when no local board has been established. RCW 43.70.130(4).
- Action in lieu of local health officers. The Secretary may exercise the same authority as a local health officer when:
- The safety of the public health demands it in an emergency; or
- The local health officer fails or is unable to act; or
- By agreement. RCW 43.70.130(7).