Nfld. & Labrador

New cancer care plan for N.L. firefighters

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball made good on one of his campaign promises Monday, on the issue of presumptive cancer care for firefighters.

Announcement fulfills a campaign promise Dwight Ball calls 'long overdue'

Firefighters pose with Service NL Minister Eddie Joyce (front-centre) after Monday's announcement. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball has unveiled details of a compensation plan that will that will presume certain cancers developed by firefighters are related to on-the-job duties. 

"Our government is proud to provide a benefit that firefighters have been seeking for more than a decade," said Ball on Monday, calling it "long overdue."

International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1075 President Doug Cadigan heralded the announcement as a "monumental day."

Under the amended plan, firefighters who qualify can apply for wage-loss benefits, medical aids and other benefits through WorkplaceNL. (CBC)

Under the amendment to the existing Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act, the 11 cancers that will be considered for coverage include:

  •  Brain cancer
  •  Breast cance
  •  Bladder cancer
  •  Colorectal Cancer
  •  Esophageal cancer
  •  Kidney cancer
  •  Leukemia
  •  Lung cancer
  •  Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  •  Testicular cancer
  •  Ureter cancer

The change will allow qualifying firefighters to seek wage-loss benefits, medical aids and other benefits through WorkplaceNL, while healthcare costs associated with cancer treatment will be paid through the Medical Care Plan (MCP). 

Minimum years of service required

Compensation for career firefighters is retroactive to Dec. 14, 2015 while coverage for volunteer firefighters is effective when the bill comes into effect Jan. 1, 2017.

The coverage requires a minimum years of service, which the government defines as the "cumulative sum of all employment periods as a firefighter, with "regular exposure to to the hazards of a fire scene, other than a forest fire scene."

The minimum years of service requirement varies for the specific types of cancer. For example, coverage of leukemia requires at least five years of service, whereas coverage for esophageal cancer requires 25. 

Rebuttal reasons

The Liberal government said currently, there are 350 career and 5,900 volunteer firefighters in the province. 

There are another 1,811 retired firefighters, and all but 100 of them had been volunteers.

Dwight Ball called the changes involving firefighters long overdue. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

The presumption that the disease is a result of duties incurred as a firefighter may be rebutted on a case-by-case basis for several reasons, including if there are other potential causes, such as a genetics.

The coverage was first recommended in 2006 and later in 2013 in a review of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act. 

With files from Mark Quinn