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Ministry proposes PTSD coverage for nurses

By Celina Ip

COUNTY OF RENFREW – Thousands of Ontario’s front-line nurses may be granted post-traumatic stress disorder coverage if a new legislation is passed.


On Dec. 6, the Ontario Ministry of Labour proposed to extend “presumptive” post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) legislation to include up to 140,000 front-line nurses across the province.

PTSD causes significant distress and impairment to functioning, following exposure to one or more traumatic events. It typically leads to painful flashbacks, nightmares, outbursts, thoughts of suicide and feelings of worry, guilt or sadness.

Ontario’s PTSD presumption currently covers police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders.

The Ministry of Labour is proposing that front-line nurses who act as first responders and face traumatic situations are just as likely to suffer from work-related PTSD.

According to the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), the top five triggers for PTSD in nurses include: death of a child, violence at work, treating patients that resemble friends or family, death or injury of patients and heavy patient workloads.

“ONA has always known that nurses are in every way first responders and vulnerable to developing post-traumatic stress disorder,” said ONA Provincial President Linda Haslam-Stroud, in a press release.

If the proposed presumption is passed, nurses will receive treatment and coverage for “stress and impairment of functioning” related to PTSD. Once a front-line nurse is diagnosed with PTSD by either a psychiatrist or a psychologist, the claims process for WSIB benefits will be expedited, and nurses will not be required to prove a causal link between PTSD and a workplace event.

“Our government is committed to ensuring the health and safety of the millions of people who work in Ontario. PTSD is a serious and debilitating injury. With appropriate resources and timely treatment, we know it can be prevented or mitigated,” said Kevin Flynn, Ontario’s minister of labour, in a press release. “It’s imperative we are ready to help those nurses who put their personal health and safety on the line while helping others.”

On Jan. 16, during the County of Renfrew’s Finance and Administration Committee meeting,  human resources director Bruce Beakley discussed the proposal and stated that he would continue to monitor its status and keep council apprised of the pending legislation.

“If an individual develops a disability or an injury as a consequence of something taking place in the workplace, then we have a responsibility as an employer to provide support to that employee. I accept the piece of legislation as being our obligation to those employees,” said Beakley. “Right now the proposal is still pending and being considered. Over the next few months we'll continue to monitor it and update council on where it’s at.” 

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