A Bill that recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a work-related diagnosis for Ontario paramedics and other emergency responders will be voted on by MPPs tomorrow. Paramedics and communication officers who are representatives of four labour groups with nearly 8000 Ontario paramedic members among them, will be in the Legislative gallery at Queen’s Park, to support and mark the event.
Bill 163 (Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act – Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, 2016) will go a long way they say in lessening the stigma associated with PTSD and paramedics getting help and 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.
Paramedics from Ottawa, Hamilton, Toronto, Renfrew, Durham, Peel and ORNGE will be in attendance for tomorrow’s vote on Bill 163.
Increasingly concerned that the province was taking recommendations on paramedic issues from some who do not represent the majority views of working paramedics, last year, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), UNIFOR and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) formed the Paramedic Working Group (PWG). The intent of the group is to ensure that dialogue with the provincial government on priority paramedic policy and patient safety issues represents the perspective of the majority of paramedics and communications officers.
The inclusion of emergency medical services communications officers under Bill 163 – an important PWG ask – is a good example of where the Minister of Labour listened to the collective and majority voice of paramedics. The PWG will continue to stress to the government that changes be made to the PTSD legislation increasing the retroactivity application from 24 months to 5 years and that would include health care workers.
The group is optimistic that the government will weigh heavily the PWG common position on pending potential changes in several areas that will have impact of patient care and public safety. The PWG is looking forward to working with the province on paramedicine policy issues and being involved in clear, focused, and open stakeholder processes – from the outset.