Psychological support for Ontario emergency response workers like firefighters, paramedics and police received a boost from legislators on February 26, 2014, when a Bill was tabled to address the complexity of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claims.
Bill 67, An Act to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, has reached second reading at Queen’s Park, where lawmakers extolled the value of considering all emergency response workers claims related to PTSD to have been as a result of their work.
The Bill, if passed, would help to reduce the onus on the emergency response worker to justify and explain their PTSD under a microscope.
“You don’t have to spend long as an MPP in a constituency office to hear from workers and the horror stories they have to tell about their experience with their claims,” Steve Clark, PC critic for community safety and correctional services, told Queen’s Park. “Add to that the cost of the system to employers and an unfunded liability that’s on its way to $20 billion, and you’ve got a WSIB system that we charitably refer to as broken.”
Alberta passed a similar Bill in 2012, now presuming that the PTSD claims made by first responders occurred during their employment.
Cheri DiNovo, MPP for Parkdale- High Park, introduced the Bill for Ontario.
“I know the government has put in place a panel to look at post-traumatic stress disorder, but that’s really in the Ministry of Labour, to look at prevention and awareness,” DiNovo told the Legislature. “I think we’ve come to the point in Ontario where we understand that post-traumatic stress disorder, in fact, all mental illness—we understand it’s truly an illness. These are not folk who are malingering.”
DiNovo shared a number of stories about PTSD with members at Queen’s Park.
The following, is a story she shared about a firefighter:
Here’s a glimpse into the life of a firefighter. This was written by his spouse. This is Tony Holubesheen’s story. She writes, “My husband, Tony, had been a Hamilton firefighter for 30 years. It was a job he loved and one he was cut out to do. He had many close calls: having all his hair burned off, caught in flashovers, and electrocuted. But in February 2002, something happened that would change our lives forever. His station was called to an apartment building at 181 Jackson Street in Hamilton. While Tony was on the main floor, the two-inch concrete ceiling collapsed on him, and he was buried. After some time, he was found by his brave co-workers. I got a call in the middle of the night telling me there had been an accident and I was to go to the hospital. It seemed like a nightmare. At the hospital, Tony had visible physical injuries. Little did we know about the other injuries.” Tony came down with post-traumatic stress disorder.
This is what our first responders do for us. This is what they do for us. It’s incumbent upon us, I feel, that we should protect them when they succumb to post-traumatic stress disorder.