NDP tables bill to help workers suffering from PTSD

Saskatchewan workers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder could receive their workers compensation benefits faster if the government follows a bill introduced by the NDP on Thursday.

Government could introduce its own legislation in the fall

Regina firefighters were among those at the legislature to hear the NDP introduce a bill supporting workers with PTSD. (CBC)

Saskatchewan workers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder could receive their workers compensation benefits faster if the government follows a bill introduced by the NDP on Thursday.

Right now, workers compensation claimants must prove their job caused their PTSD. NDP health critic Danielle Chartier said that can add undue stress and take time.

"All employees, all workers have the chance to be exposed to traumatic events on the job and need presumptive coverage," said Chartier.

Under the NDP's proposed bill, a diagnosis of PTSD would be presumed to be an occupational injury, which would speed up the claim process.

"PTSD is a very real injury for Saskatchewan workers and they deserve coverage in a prompt fashion to ensure they can get back to work in a timely fashion and that isn't the case right now," Chartier said.

Red tape removal needed, advocate says

Jennifer Chouinard, a trauma and crisis social worker, was diagnosed with work-related PTSD in February 2015. She founded the Saskatchewan PTSD Support Initiative. 

"When it came down to it, my memory just stopped, it just completely quit working while I was on the job," Chouinard said.

By passing a presumptive legislation, Chouinard said it could reduce the stigma attached to missing work because of a mental health issue.

"Right now approved claims through workers compensation less than one per cent are psychological claims and that ratio to me doesn't reflect the level of understanding we now have of mental health and its affects in the workplace," Chouinard said.
Jennifer Chouinard is the founder of the Saskatchewan PTSD Support Initiative. She says all workers who suffer PTSD on the job should be treated the same by workers compensation. (CBC)

New PTSD bill expected in the fall

The government says it has been working on changing the legislation as well. First, by studying what other provinces are doing.

All three western provinces have PTSD presumption clauses, both Manitoba and British Columbia passed bills this year.

"Our intention, over the summer, is to do a more careful analysis and likely introduce a bill in the fall," said Don Morgan, minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board.

Morgan said Saskatchewan firefighters have been lobbying for the changes for the last year.

Advocates want new bill to cover all workers

In other jurisdictions, the presumption of PTSD is covered by a number of occupations, mainly those who respond to emergencies and traumatic events.

"We want to look carefully to make sure we capture everybody that should be covered and have some flexibility on it," Morgan said.

In Manitoba, all occupations are covered. That is something the NDP and the Saskatchewan PTSD Support Initiative are advocating for.

"When thinking about an armed robbery at a convenience store where a worker was hurt or witnessed a customer getting hurt, he or she may suffer from PTSD, and so too, could the paramedics at the scene," said Paul Hills president of the Saskatoon Paramedics Association.

"However, if this legislation only included first responders, the paramedic wouldn't have to prove his or her PTSD was born of the incident, whereas the store employee would. That's not a fair and balanced approach to treating a very serious condition," Hills said.