Cheri DiNovo’s bill would give benefits to police, firefighters, paramedics

TheStar.com – News/Queen’s Park – First responders move one step closer to having PTSD automatically recognized as job-related in NDP bill
Feb 27 2014.   By: Rob Ferguson, Queen’s Park Bureau

Ontario has moved a step closer to making it easier for police, firefighters and paramedics to claim benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder they’ve experienced because of their job.

MPPs voted unanimously Thursday to send a private member’s bill from New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo to a legislative committee for further study, the last hurdle before it could be called by the government for a final vote.

The legislation, now known as Bill 67 after previous attempts in 2008 and 2010, would amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act to presume PTSD is an occupational disease unless there is evidence to the contrary.

Calling front-line emergency workers “brave souls . . . who run into trouble when we’re running out,” DiNovo (Parkdale—High Park) said her proposed law is a natural follow-up to a law passed by the Liberal government a few years ago recognizing certain types of cancer in firefighters as job-related.

“This law needs to be put in place to direct them (the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) so they can process these claims faster,” said DiNovo, noting many first responders complain of being traumatized by the investigation process.

“It was cruel and unusual punishment,” said retired OPP officer Bruce Kruger, who appeared at a news conference with DiNovo earlier Thursday.

Kruger said his PTSD is a result of violence he witnessed during his career, including his fatal shooting of a prison escapee who was pointing a shotgun at his partner in 1977, finding a slain officer frozen solid in a snow bank with three bullet holes between his eyes, and witnessing suicides.

“All this took a horrific toll on me and my family,” said Kruger.

York Region paramedic David Whitley said his PTSD stems from being in a car accident while rushing a critically ill patient to hospital in an ambulance. He was knocked out and woke up with a concussion and back injuries, trapped in the vehicle with a relative of the patient hanging over him.

“We were extricated and then I did my job. I feel pretty good about it,” Whitley said, noting his PTSD trouble did not come until later and left him reluctant to file a workplace compensation claim because of the “stigma.”

DiNovo said she does not know how many PTSD cases are pending and could be impacted by her legislation, which has raised concerns in some circles about compensation costs.

Alberta passed a similar law last year.

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