Emergency service workers applaud changes to Bill 1

Local emergency service workers are comforted by the Alberta government’s move to amend the Workers Compensation Act to include coverage for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Local emergency service workers are comforted by the Alberta government’s move to amend the Workers Compensation Act to include coverage for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Proposed changes to Bill 1 will allow first responders to claim coverage from the Workers’ Compensation Board for PSTD without having to prove their condition is work-related, announced the Alberta government Tuesday.

“It’s comforting, from an employee perspective to know that if we claim compensation for PSTD, it would then be presumed to be work-related,” said Red Deer Fire Chief Jack MacDonald. “We can deal with some pretty gruesome incidents . . . It’s good that’s being recognized.”

Likewise, Red Deer County assistant county manager Ric Henderson said its a “good move” on the provincial government’s part.

“Firefighters, paramedics . . . they see a lot of things and everyone is affected differently but they do have a profound affect,” said Henderson. “This will make compensation for PTSD more accessible; it’s a way of looking after people.”

The bill applies specifically to paramedics, firefighters and police officers. This also includes sheriffs but does not extend to RCMP members or the Armed Forces, which are under federal jurisdiction.

While the bill did not pass during this week’s session, it will return in the fall.

If it should pass, Alberta will be the first province in Canada to provide such coverage.

“There is increased awareness of the affects of PTSD over the last decade,” said Dave Hancock, Minister of Human Services. “This proposed legislation recognizes first responders who face traumatic experiences. We are proud to support them and bring forward legislation that leads the country.”

PTSD is an intense emotional and psychological response to a recent or past traumatic event that is life-threatening, very disturbing or stressful. Symptoms can include reliving the horrific event through nightmares or flashbacks, emotional numbness and being on edge or easily scared, said a news release from the government.

According to the government, more than 27,000 first responders will be provided with presumptive coverage for PTSD under the new proposed legislation.

This includes approximately 3,800 municipal police, 13,500 firefighters (both full and part time), 9,200 paramedics, and 700 sheriffs currently employed in Alberta.

MacDonald said he hopes this will also act as a catalyst for more preventive work and programs directly in the field.

“The key thing is to get out in front of PTSD before it happens, preventing it,” he said. “So like having more on-shift resources and more external resources readily available.”

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com