British Columbia

B.C. nurses, 911 operators to get easier access to mental health compensation

The government changed the Workers Compensation Act last year to add a list of mental-health disorders associated with jobs like police and firefighters, and now Bains says they're expanding that to the other occupations.

Care aides also included as changes to Workers Compensation Act are expanded

Dispatchers listen back to a 911 call in April 2018. Emergency dispatchers in B.C. will soon have easier access to compensation for mental-health disorders, according to the province. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Emergency dispatchers, nurses and care aides in B.C. will soon have easier access to compensation for mental-health disorders associated to their work.

Labour Minister Harry Bains says the regulatory changes are about fairness and support for workers who experience mental harm because of their jobs.

Bains says people in certain professions are more likely to encounter trauma on the job that can lead to mental illness.

The government changed the Workers Compensation Act last year to add a list of mental-health disorders associated with jobs like police and firefighters, and now Bains says they're expanding that to the other occupations.

'Stress and duress' filing claims

Jas Khandal, an emergency medical dispatcher, welcomed the change.

"Calls range anywhere from a young child who's not conscious and not breathing, to hanging up and taking the next call for someone that's broken their leg playing a sport … so we have to have the ability to shut off between calls," said Khandal, who takes anywhere from 60 to 100 calls for help in a 12-hour shift.

"We don't get to find out what's happened to the patient after the calls are over."

The dispatcher said the old process of filing a claim with WorkSafeBC, in itself, could re-traumatize workers.

"Before, if you filed a claim … we had to prove that the injury was caused from being at work and that in itself caused a lot of stress and duress on people because they had to relive it," Khandal said.

Oliver Gruter-Andrew, CEO of the 911 call centre E-Comm, says the change is good news because people experience a high level of emotional stress as they work to save lives.

B.C. Nurses Union president Christine Sorensen says the changes will provide resources and support for nurses who are suffering from mental injury.

She said 2016 WorkSafeBC statistics show nurses accounted for 12 per cent of claims due to mental disorders.

With files from Tanya Fletcher

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