Nfld. & Labrador

Paul Davis announces PTSD, cancer legislation for emergency responders

If elected, Paul Davis says he would enact presumptive legislation that would make it easier for emergency responders, like firefighters and police, to access health care.
Progressive Conservative Leader Paul Davis says if elected, his government would introduce presumptive legislation to allow emergency responders to better access health care. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Progressive Conservative Leader Paul Davis announced Monday new presumptive legislation for firefighters and other emergency responders, if his party was elected to government.

The new legislation would make it easier for frontline workers to get help for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as expand workplace injury coverage if they have a heart attack after responding to a call.

The presumptive clause would mean a full-time firefighter who serves for a specified period of time and develops a specific form of cancer is presumed to have developed that cancer on the job.

That same clause would cover a firefighter who had a heart injury within 24 hours of responding to a fire scene.

Both of those cases would be presumed to be a workplace-related injury, and will enable the firefighter to receive workplace compensation.

"I come from the front lines of public service in a profession where people endure all sorts of risks to protect others, and I recognize that such professions take a toll on those who serve in them," said Davis, who is a retired Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer.

PC Leader Paul Davis, with firefighter John Heffernan, says he's heard personal accounts of first responders asked to prove their PTSD was a result of a workplace incident. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The presumptive PTSD legislation would cover frontline emergency response workers, like firefighters and police officers, who are not already covered federally.

That would see workers suffering from PTSD as a result of their job receive improved assess to care, Davis said.

'PTSD can be accumulative'

Davis said he doesn't have specific numbers of people denied coverage for PTSD treatment, but he knows of several instances where a person had to "prove" their PTSD was a result of a workplace incident.

Enacting such legislation is the right thing to do, and our government will do it.- PC Leader Paul Davis

"I also know when a person suffered from PTSD, they and their family isn't in a good place to be going through a lengthy process to try and prove and discover exactly what was the cause of PTSD," he said.

"PTSD can be accumulative over a period of time as a result of responding to a number of events or a number of experiences, it doesn't have to be signalled or triggered by one catastrophic or horrific event."

He added that he knows "first hand" how difficult it is for workers suffering from PTSD to get help.

Davis said a 2013 review report recommended Newfoundland and Labrador enact legislation with a presumptive cancer clause for firefighters, something Davis said most provinces already have.

"Enacting such legislation is the right thing to do, and our government will do it," said Davis.

John Heffernan, acting fire chief in Conception Bay South, says the legislation would be welcome regardless of who introduces it. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Davis made the announcement at the Conception Bay South Fire Department where acting fire chief John Heffernan said the proposed legislation is a welcome announcement.

"The idea of presumptive cancer legislation, anything that can benefit the fire service we obviously certainly support that, regardless of who brings that forward," said Heffernan.

Heffernan said he's looking forward to seeing the model of what that legislation would actually entail, and where that money would come from.

"Whether it would come from the province itself, through WHSCC or if it would come from a pot of money from the municipalities that actually employ career firefighters which obviously would limit that pool of money," he said.

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