Vancouver/Victoria – The BC Nurses’ Union says the government’s move to include nurses in the list of occupations that have the presumption of workplace mental injury, is a huge step forward for the health and well-being of all nurses.

The changes that take effect today give nurses greater access to services and compensation to treat mental health injuries including, but not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). BCNU has been calling for this change to the Workers Compensation Act, adding nurses to the list of recognized professions which currently includes front-line workers such as firefighters, police officers, sheriffs, correctional officers, and paramedics.

Regulatory changes took effect on Tuesday.

“These changes to the Mental Disorder Presumption Regulation are about fairness and support for workers who experience higher-than-average mental harm due to the jobs they do on behalf of British Columbians,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour.

Last spring, government amended the Workers Compensation Act to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental-health disorders to the list of illnesses that are recognized as being associated with certain professions – specifically police, firefighters, paramedics, sheriffs and correctional officers. This recognition fast-tracks the claims process to access supports and compensation for those illnesses once a formal diagnosis has been made.

Amendments to Mental Disorder Presumption Regulation

B.C.’s workers’ compensation system provides any worker with compensation and supports for illnesses, injuries or mental health disorders caused by their work. Funding for compensation comes from insurance premiums paid by employers.

For a claim to be accepted, medical, scientific or other evidence must be provided to establish that the condition arose from their employment, in addition to a diagnosis by a medical professional.

A “presumption” under the Workers Compensation Act provides that if a worker has been employed in specific occupations and develops a disease or disorder that is recognized as being associated with that occupation, then the condition is presumed to have been due to the nature of their work, unless the contrary is proved. With a presumptive condition, there is no longer a need to prove that a claimant’s disease or disorder is work-related once a formal diagnosis has been made.

The act and regulations outline specific cancers and heart injury and diseases that impact firefighter groups, in respect to presumptions. Amendments to the act in May 2018 added mental-health disorders to the list of presumptions for federal and municipal firefighters, as well as police, paramedics, sheriffs and correctional officers.

Further amendments introduced on April 11, 2019, will extend the cancer, heart disease and mental-health disorder presumptions to wildfire fighters, fire investigators and firefighters working for First Nations and Indigenous organizations.

The announcement involves an amendment to the Mental Disorder Presumption Regulation to extend the mental health disorder presumption to the following occupations:

  • Emergency dispatchers whose duties include the dispatch of firefighters, police officers and ambulance services, as well as those who receive emergency (911) calls from the public. Most dispatchers are employed by either the BC Emergency Health Services or Emergency Communications for British Columbia Incorporated.
  • All nurses regulated by the B.C. College of Nursing Professionals, including licensed practical nurses, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses.
  • Health-care assistants (care aides) registered with the BC Care Aide & Community Health Worker Registry and employed in a publicly funded organization or setting.

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