Sometimes I don’t like being right.
On Tuesday, April 5, the Ontario government passed bill 163, the Supporting First Responders Act. The new law will help workers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It was a long time coming. NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo fought for PTSD legislation for eight years before the Liberals at Queen’s Park caught on. Her idea was to make sure that workers diagnosed with PTSD would not have to prove it was work-related. That would clear the path for them to get treatment and WSIB benefits, if needed.
So Bill 163 is a good thing. OPSEU members who are paramedics and correctional officers are better off. But that doesn’t mean the struggle is over. And this is where I don’t like being right.
On the afternoon of April 5, we put out a news release in which I called on the Liberals to extend the protections in Bill 163 to all workers. As written, the bill covers police, fire, paramedical, and correctional workers. That’s good, but it’s not good enough. All kinds of people get PTSD because of what happens at work. All workers should be covered.
Our release mentioned health care workers in particular. Little did we know that, as we were sending out the release, an OPSEU member had just been violently attacked.
It happened at 2:51 p.m. A client at the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health in Penetanguishene stabbed one of our nurses in the back with two screwdrivers and knocked her unconscious. A nurse manager ran to help her. He got a broken nose and multiple stab wounds before he and two other staff were able to restrain the client.
Everybody at Waypoint was shaken by the attack.
Will someone at the hospital get PTSD because of it? I hope not. But if they do, there is no reason they should have to prove to anybody that their condition is work-related.
Hundreds of OPSEU members have had traumatic things happen at work. We’ve seen things we wish we could unsee. That’s why I’m calling on all OPSEU members to join me in calling on the government to bring in version 2.0 of Bill 163.
In Manitoba, all workers are covered by PTSD legislation. Here in Ontario we should accept nothing less.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union
P.S. The best way to handle PTSD is to prevent it. Our union has been talking about safety issues at Waypoint since it opened. We’ll keep on doing so until that facility puts safety first.