PTSD Legislation

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Amended Bill 7, the Workers’ Compensation Act,  A Victory for those with PTSD 

In late September of this year, government introduced legislation making it easier for front-line and emergency response workers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to access benefits.

Amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act were intended to ensure covered workers no longer have to prove their PTSD diagnosis was caused by a workplace incident.

During the summer, government talked to employees and employers about barriers to coverage and treatment for workers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The consultation involved nurses, first responders, correctional services, paramedics, psychiatrists, health sector workers and other organizations. Feedback helped shape the amendments and inform regulations.

While occupational stress due to traumatic events, including PTSD, has always been covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act, for all workers, it currently requires covered workers to prove their diagnosis is a direct result of a workplace incident. Some PTSD sufferers avoid getting help because of this process.

The amendments address the following issues:

  • clarify that PTSD is presumed to be a result of an incident during employment
  • define who is eligible for presumptive PTSD benefits. This will include police, paid and volunteer firefighters, paramedics, nurses, continuing care assistants, 911 and emergency dispatch workers, and provincial and federal correctional officers with workers’ compensation coverage
  • allow coverage for other occupations to be added by regulation
  • outline that new regulations will establish who can diagnose PTSD and time limits for eligibility

On October 24th, the Nova Scotia Legislature voted unanimously to amend section 10 of Bill 7, the Workers' Compensation Act. The Bill now states if a front-line or emergency-response worker is diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, it will be presumed to have resulted from a trauma or multiple traumas the worker was exposed to while on the job. Nurses were among the professionals named in the amendment. As a result, nurses who are diagnosed with PTSD may now be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits to aid in their treatment.

Nurses see patients experiencing extreme pain and suffering. Like other first responders, they see humanity at its worst, and patients at their most vulnerable. Unfortunately, the thoughts and experiences at work are not easily compartmentalized; they stay with the nurse and affect every aspect of their life.

Nurse unions across the country have been lobbying governments and compensation boards to recognize the reality of PTSD in nursing and the obligation to provide appropriate care and compensation to those affected. The NSNU is happy to see that in Nova Scotia, the legislation specifically names nurses and continuing care assistants, professions which are typically female-dominated.

NSNU president, Janet Hazelton has been vocal on this matter, insisting that the nursing profession be categorized under the Act as a profession that can cause PTSD. Janet spoke in favour of the amendment on October 16 at Law Amendments, and was present in the legislature yesterday as the amendment was passed. She was thanked in the House of Assembly for her advocacy, perseverance and determination regarding this issue.

The amendments will take effect one year from royal assent to allow time for government to work with stakeholders to develop the supporting regulations.