Ontario nurses face many of the same dangers and horrors as first responders but are excluded from new legislation designed to strengthen protections for workplace Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, their union says.
“Nurses walk into situations, or run into situations, they don’t run away from them,” Vicki McKenna, of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, said Monday. “We have nurses that go into people’s homes, we have nurses working on the street, working along with police and paramedic teams.”
Bill 163 — to be voted on in the legislature on Tuesday — would deem PTSD a workplace-related illness for paramedics, firefighters and police officers, as well as nurses and officers working in jails.
But McKenna argued nurses in the long-term sector have gone into rooms where a homicide has occurred, and those in emergency rooms constantly deal with victims of violence and horrible accidents.
“You shouldn’t exclude particular workers because they might not be the first one to step their foot into a vehicle accident setting,” she said.
The legislation would mean first responders could access Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits far more easily than they can now.
The presumptive legislation, if it passes third reading as expected, is slated to be proclaimed into law Wednesday.
It had been long sought and has now been widely lauded by first responders.
In a statement issued on behalf of 8,000 Ontario paramedics, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said the bill will help lessen the stigma associated with PTSD and help first responders get treatment “before it’s too late.”
“Research shows that because of frequent exposure to traumatic situations, paramedics and other first responders are at least twice as likely to suffer PTSD than the general population,” the CUPE statement says.
Craig MacBride, spokesman for Labour Minister Kevin Flynn, said the government is committed to workplace safety for nurses, creating a leadership table on violence in health care and also amending the Occupational Health and Safety Act to help prevent workplace violence and harassment.
“It’s also important to remember that nurses, like all Ontario workers, are covered for PTSD through the WSIB. Bill 163 simply creates a more responsive process for those who are most likely to face traumatic experiences on a regular basis,” MacBride said.