Opposition MLA questions why government didn't act on bill extending PTSD support to workers

Opposition MLA Jamie Fox wants to know why the government has introduced a bill extending supports to workers who suffer from PTSD when his fall private member's bill doing just that has been stalled by the Liberals.

Fox's bill passed and received royal assent in December, but wasn't proclaimed by the government

MLA Jamie Fox says those suffering with PTSD could have been getting assistance for the past four months. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

Opposition MLA Jamie Fox wants to know why the government has introduced a bill extending supports to workers who suffer from PTSD when his fall private member's bill doing just that has been stalled by the Liberals.

Back in December, the Borden-Kinkora MLA's bill amending the Workers Compensation Act passed unanimously and made it to royal assent, but has yet to be proclaimed by the government. It passed with an amendment introduced by Premier Wade MacLauchlan that left cabinet to set a date allowing the legislation to come into effect.

Fox's bill would provide presumptive coverage to anyone filing a PTSD-related claim for worker's compensation. That means the Workers Compensation Board of P.E.I. would have to prove the PTSD was not work related if it wanted to deny coverage.

Government bill broader in scope

During the first sitting of the spring session on Thursday, the government tabled their own bill. It has some changes to Fox's bill, such as extending support to trauma and stressor-related disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Fox's bill only mentions PTSD.

"We supported Mr. Fox's bill in the spirit of the bill, and in consultation with workman's comp., we thought we better do a little further investigating," said Sonny Gallant, minister of workforce and advanced learning.

Sonny Gallant, minister of workforce and advanced learning, says the government bill was developed after further consultation with the Worker's Compensation Board. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

"And what these amendments will do, it will broaden the legislation and etch it in stone to protect all Islanders, not just people suffering from PTSD."

But Fox said government has just been holding up the process and that for months those with PTSD could have been getting service. 

"We're four months off when that bill was... given royal assent back in December, why not proclaim it, let that bill go through, the services put in place and then enhance it as required down the road?" he said.  

Fewer diagnosis options, Fox says

The other major change is that the new bill will only allow diagnosis from a psychiatrist or psychologist, where Fox's bill would allow a physician or psychologist to diagnose.

"The medical advisor with workman's comp reached out to the physicians and many physicians felt that they could do it, it was about 20 per cent," Gallant said, "and then there was about 80 per cent that felt they didn't have the time to do a thorough prognosis, it takes about six hours to do. You know it's a lengthy procedure and they felt they wouldn't be able to do it justice."

But Fox said that will slow the process up for many, as wait times can be long for psychiatrists and psychologists on the Island. He said the PC caucus is looking at the new bill now. 

"You know we can always go and amend it again, amend their bill," he said. "But at the end of the day, we're limiting what these people need and they deserve."

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About the Author

Natalia Goodwin

Video Journalist

Natalia is a video journalist in P.E.I. She has also worked for CBC N.L.