Ontario recognizes PTSD as work-related for first responders
By:Rob FergusonQueen's Park Bureau, Toronto Star. Published on Tue Apr 05 2016
Police, firefighters and paramedics with post-traumatic stress disorder will no longer have to prove it was caused by tragedies they handled on the job, erasing a major roadblock to prompt treatment.
MPPs from all parties unanimously passed a law Tuesday recognizing the disorder as a work-related illness, which advocates hope will ease a spate of suicides among first responders.
“This is going to save a lot of lives,” said Carmen Santoro, president of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association.
Once the bill receives royal assent — expected soon — the onerous process in which first responders had to detail how they were traumatized by grisly events in the course of their duties should draw to a close.
“They won’t have to re-live it. They won’t have to go through ‘which date did you see that victim at a scene?’ It’s presumed to have happened on the job because of the number of times we’re exposed to those incidents,” Santoro added, noting his and other groups will be watching the Workplace Safety Insurance Board closely.
“It should be automatic. We’ll see how it goes.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said “too many people are struggling, fighting with WSIB to get treatment” under the current rules.
Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said it was “gratifying” to get all-party support and noted first responders are twice as likely to get PTSD as other workers.
He rejected a push to broadly cover nurses and other workers, such as child protection staff, probation and parole officers and provincial bailiffs, as requested by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
“Where a nurse is engaged in a first-responder situation, which we believe they are in corrections, we’ve extended the coverage.”
The law also applies to correctional officers in jails and dispatchers for police, fire and ambulance services. Alberta and Manitoba have similar legislation.
“We will continue to lobby the province to follow Manitoba’s lead and include all frontline workers,” said OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas. “Workers in many occupations face trauma at work.”
New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo — who has introduced five private member’s bills in the last seven years to extend automatic recognition of PTSD coverage to first responders — said she was disappointed the legislation did not go further.
“We would like to see some broadening of the scope.”
Still, DiNovo said, the law is a step forward toward the goal of getting first responders treatment as quickly as possible.
“They want to get back to work and they can get back to work. That saves money.”
For the firefighters, Santoro said he wishes the law would allow the cases of first responders who have been rejected over the years to be re-opened.
Flynn hopes the bill’s passage will ease the stigma of PTSD and help first responders to come forward for help when they need it, which a new $300,000 advertising campaign encourages them to do.
“It’s a mental health issue . . . society just hasn’t paid enough attention to mental health issues in general,” he told reporters.
“If we can prevent people from getting PTSD…we think that is the preferable route.”
Also under the legislation, employers must submit PTSD prevention plans to the government and there will be an annual summit on the disorder where experts, employers and first responders can exchange new ideas and best practices.
“It can be managed, it can be dealt with in a good way, in a meaningful way, but at this point in time it’s incurable,” Flynn added, noting some first responders carry the effects for the rest of their lives
Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn Announces PTSD for First Responders
Ontario has become the latest province to formally recognize the serious
toll that working as a first responder can take on a person's mental health.
On February 18, the province introduced legislation that recognizes
post-traumatic stress as an occupational illness among fire fighters and other
first responders, which will make it easier for those suffering from
post-traumatic stress to access workers' compensation benefits and proper
treatment. The legislation will benefit the 11,000 members of the Ontario
Professional Fire Fighters Association (OPFFA) and thousands of other first
responders in Canada's largest province.
Dozens of OPFFA members crammed into the Ontario Legislature in Toronto
to watch Labour Minister Kevin Flynn introduce the Supporting Ontario's First
Responders Act (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), which will remove the need for
first responders to link post-traumatic stress to the workplace, and which will
also require those who employ first responders to implement post-traumatic
stress prevention plans.
Ontario's legislation is part of a broader strategy on post-traumatic
stress that the Ontario government announced earlier this year, and follows in
the footsteps of Alberta and British Columbia, which enacted workers'
compensation laws addressing post-traumatic stress and mental disorders,
respectively, in 2012, and Manitoba, which enacted similar legislation for
first responders last year.
OPFFA President Carmen Santoro thanked Minister Flynn and Community
Safety and Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi for their action on such
an important issue.
"The Ontario government is recognizing what we have always known -
mental health is just as important as physical health," Santoro said. "With
this addition to our presumptive legislation, fire fighters suffering from
post-traumatic stress will be able to focus on getting healthy and not on navigating
a complicated bureaucratic regime."
Santoro also acknowledged the hard work that OPFFA members have done in
the political arena. "Our locals have done tremendous work building
relationships with politicians from all parties. It's really thanks to them
that we have been able to get widespread support for the government's
Minister Flynn said the legislation will give first responders "the
peace of mind they deserve" and that the accompanying prevention, resiliency
and research initiatives round out a comprehensive approach to post-traumatic
stress that everyone can be proud of. "Given all that we ask of our first
responders, it is only fair that we support them when they need us most."
The Ontario Government says
evidence shows that first responders are at least twice as likely compared to
the general population to suffer post-traumatic stress, due to the risk of
routine exposure to traumatic stressors.
Post-traumatic stress coverage is a welcome addition to Ontario's
existing presumptive laws for professional fire fighters, which were first
enacted in 2007 covering eight types of cancers, plus heart disease.
Legislation phasing in an additional six cancers was enacted in 2014.
According to the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, a leading national
post-traumatic stress advocacy group, 10 Canadian first responders have
committed suicide so far in 2016. Last year, the group recorded 39 first
responder suicides, including nine fire fighters.
Earlier today, the Ontario Legislature passed Bill 109, An
Act to amend various statutes with respect to employment and labour. It has
received Royal Assent and the amendments it made to the Fire Protection and
Prevention Act are now in force.
Among other things, this Act ensures that our rights are
protected and brings us on equal footing with other organized labour groups in
the province. Bill 109 also offers protection under the Labour Relations Act
against such unfair practices as interfering with bargaining rights or
intimidating and coercing members. The bill moves enforcement of our disputes
out of the courts and under the Ontario Labour Relations Board, where they will
be heard by labour relations experts instead of judges. These disputes can also
be expedited in the same way that they are for other labour relations groups.
This expedited grievance arbitration process will require that discharge
grievances be heard within as few as 35 days from the date of grievance and
other grievances within 51 days of the grievance filing. Finally, Bill 109 will
require that the Rand Formula be included in collective agreements at the request
of an association.
One final provision of Bill 109 will affect the way in which
survivor benefits are calculated. The WSIB and its Appeals Tribunals are now
required to calculate survivor benefits on the basis of the average earnings of
the deceased worker's occupation at the time of the worker's injury or
diagnosis instead of statutory minimums.
We would like to express our appreciation to the Minister of
Labour, Kevin Flynn, and to his staff, who shepherded the Bill through the
Legislative Assembly. This is another example of the kind of support this
government has consistently offered fire fighters.
Clarington Fire's new EpiPens save bee-stung senior
Emergency medicine for severe allergic reactions added to fire truck equipment just this year
Clarington This Week
By Jennifer O'Meara
CLARINGTON -- A Newcastle firefighter saved an unresponsive senior from a severe allergic reaction by using the department’s new EpiPens, added to Clarington fire truck equipment just this year.
“We put our first one to use,” said Clarington Fire Chief Gord Weir.
A man in his mid-70s who is highly allergic was stung by a bee on Friday, Aug. 7. He didn’t have an EpiPen on him and had a friend drive him to a Newcastle pharmacy to buy one. The pharmacy was out of stock and the man began to go into anaphylactic shock.
Emergency crews were called and the firefighters were at the pharmacy within three minutes. By the time they had arrived the man was unresponsive. Firefighters injected the EpiPen into the man’s right thigh.
By the time paramedics arrived, the senior was again able to open his eyes when spoken to by emergency workers. He was taken to hospital.
Epinephrine auto-injectors, or EpiPens, are used to help treat anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction some people have to certain foods, insect bites or medications. Patients suffer swelling, hives, low blood pressure and increased heart rate. If anaphylactic shock isn’t treated quickly, it can be fatal.
With firefighters often responding to local emergency calls before paramedics, Chief Weir said the pens improve firefighters’ ability to respond to severe allergic reactions.
In the fall of 2014, both adult and child EpiPens were added to the list of life-saving equipment on three Clarington fire trucks. All eight of the municipality’s pumper trucks were carrying the injectors come 2015. Firefighters were trained in how to use the EpiPens before the medicine was placed on the trucks.
March 18, 2015
Winnipeg Free Press
We, the leadership of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS), express our profound dismay with
Mary Agnes Welch’s column of March 11, 2015 (“Firefighters skilled at manipulating the political system”). Ms. Welch had an opportunity to research and report facts as a service to your readers; instead, the article used only select facts that do not paint an accurate picture.
In this limited space, it is difficult to fully describe the tremendously successful integrated EMS-Fire model of the WFPS. Perhaps we can interest the Winnipeg Free Press in publishing a series of articles to fulfill that task. For now, we are hopeful the following facts will be published to assist readers in seeing beyond the limits of the article:
The majority of paramedics who work on Winnipeg’s ambulances are primary care paramedics (PCPs). They hold the same emergency medical education, qualification, and licence as those who work on Winnipeg’s fire trucks. In fact, the vast majority of paramedics in Manitoba are PCPs. Ms.
Welch’s characterization of “hand-holding” is as wrong as it is offensive. Regardless of the uniform they wear, PCPs are the foundation of Manitoba’s EMS system. PCPs are proud of the emergency medical care they provide, as are we.
A community’s fire service is part of its infrastructure which attracts investment of business, industry, and residents. Proper fire resourcing reduces the insurance premiums of homeowners and business owners, on the order of $2 in savings for every $1 of taxation to support fire service.
Fortunately, fires don’t occur continually, resulting in an inherent response capacity in the fire protection service.
Placement and staffing of fire resources is solely determined by response time to all parts of the City for fire-related calls. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guideline 1710 describes the response time standards to which urban fire services are held.
Integrated fire & EMS departments provide service to almost 60% of Manitoba residents, as this model is also used in Brandon, Thompson, and Shilo. Integrated service has existed in these communities for many years. As well, a number of other Canadian communities employ this model, and it is very common in US centres.
Winnipeg’s integrated model arose in the late 1990s and early 2000s due to the lack of capacity of the existing, standalone EMS service. Using the inherent response capacity in the fire service avoided significant duplication of resources. The integrated model framework was recommended by several independent consultants, was created in the mid 2000’s, and culminated in 2007 with negotiated work sharing agreements. These agreements remain in our practice today.
The popular myth that fire departments bolster their call volumes with medical calls to preserve their staffing is categorically false. In fact, if Winnipeg’s fire service ceased medical response, our staffing and resources would not change at all, and our net cost would increase significantly with the loss of several million dollars of funding we receive for our fire service’s contribution to the EMS system.
Equally false is the notion that sending a fire apparatus to a medical call is a waste of tax dollars. As noted above, that crew and apparatus would be on duty and paid regardless of their involvement in medical response. Indeed, not responding with that crew would truly be a waste of tax dollars.
In 2014, our integrated system provided average travel times to the highest priority calls of 3.72 minutes. Had we relied only on our ambulance resources, the average travel time would have been 6.73 minutes. Welch’s statement that “speed doesn’t matter” on these calls demonstrates a lack of understanding of medical and traumatic emergencies. We are confident that anyone who has called 911 for themselves or a loved one in medical distress would agree that having a skilled paramedic arrive almost 50% faster is critical, regardless of the vehicle in which they arrive.
In 2014, fire-based PCPs responded alone to 11,192 calls. Almost 90% of these were “person down,” “falls,” or “assist police.” This represents the call volume of approximately three, 24-hour ambulances. Without fire involvement, these three ambulances would have been unavailable for calls more likely to require advanced care and/or transport to hospital. The addition of three ambulances would further add to the tax burden.
Fire crews DO NOT respond to every medical call. We have used our many years of experience to hone the system responses to send the most appropriate resources to different types of calls.
Of 63,000 calls for emergency medical service in 2014, fire resources attended just over 31,000, less than half. We send resources according to the initial information in the call, then scale up or down as the situation presents.
·The efficiency of our system is demonstrated by impartial comparison to other cities. Winnipeg participates in the Ontario Municipal Benchmarking Initiative (OMBI), which involves many facets of municipal services. The 2013 data shows Winnipeg as providing among the highest number of ambulance service hours servicing the most calls at the lowest cost per hour among 13 cities. Winnipeg was among the busiest fire services, with the second lowest unit staffing costs among nine cities.
All of these bona fide facts were available to Ms. Welch for the asking. We publicly presented the OMBI data during our budget presentation on March 9, 2015. Regrettably, the only fact that Welch chose to verify with the City was the percentage of female firefighters in the WFPS. Her insertion of this figure to insinuate a gender issue borders on salaciousness.
While the focus of the article was clearly limited to observations on a political landscape, the selectiveness of factual reporting has led to an imbalance that not only slights the paramedics who serve our city, but also does a disservice to your readers by not accurately representing the integrated model citizens are served by. The March 16 column by Dan Lett (“Firefighter-paramedic rift harmful”) exacerbates the misunderstanding of the integrated model and its benefits to our citizens. We respectfully urge the Free Press to address this imbalance.
John A. Lane, BSC Tom Wallace
Chief Deputy Chief
Winnipeg Fire & Paramedic Service Winnipeg Fire & Paramedic Service
Rob Grierson, MD Joe Seewald
Medical Director Deputy Chief
Winnipeg Fire & Paramedic Service Winnipeg Fire & Paramedic Service
Winnipeg Fire & Paramedic Service
MISSISSAUGA - All fire trucks in Mississauga now carry life-saving EpiPens to treat people experiencing a severe allergic reaction. Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services officials brought the news to City councillors last Wednesday. EpiPens are used to administer ..........read more