The BC Nurses’ Union is disappointed that nurses are not included in legislation set to provide faster treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health diagnoses for first responders. The announcement to include these as presumptive conditions means that firefighters, police officers, paramedics, sheriffs and correctional officers will no longer need to prove that their disorder is work-related. This will mean faster access to the resources and compensation they deserve.
While BCNU welcomes this news for first responders, Acting President Christine Sorensen feels let down by the decision to exclude nurses from the legislative changes. "What these professionals have in common with nurses is the routine exposure to trauma in the course of their jobs. Up until today, we all faced similar barriers in getting claims accepted by WorkSafeBC (WSBC). This announcement discriminates against those point-of-care nurses who are psychologically impacted from providing care in traumatic situations taking place in acute, residential and community-based settings," says Sorensen.
Presumptive conditions are associated with specific types of jobs and are used to help determine injuries that have been caused by the nature of the work.
"I am urging the Minister of Labour, Hon. Harry Bains, to amend this legislation to include nurses in the interests of fairness and to ensure that they also receive timely support and treatment. The union has provided evidence and data to the Ministry, yet nurses have been left out," says Sorensen.
For example, WSBC data from 2016 shows that nurses accounted for nearly 12% of all mental disorder claims and over 10% of all claims registered for PTSD. In 2016, 76 nurses (over six per month) registered claims for PTSD.
"I frequently encounter nurses with documented disorders who have had their claims denied by WSBC on the grounds that it resulted from exposure to trauma that is considered normal in their line of work," recalls Sorensen.
"This is a set-back for nurses who give and give until they cannot give anymore," offers Sorensen. "The mental health needs of nurses must be as high a priority for the government as any other front-line professional providing care to British Columbians. The decision to omit nurses from this announcement directly impacts their quality of life, the well-being of their families and the sustainability of the health care system."
To follow up, please contact Shaheen Shivji, Communications Officer, at 604-433-2268 Local 2247.
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