CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) P.E.I. is calling on the provincial government to “get moving” and enact a bill to provide added support for workers who have post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We would like to see a resolution to this by the time the house closes the spring session. It’s been going on long enough. People are hurting, and it’s ruining people’s lives and they need some help,” said CUPE P.E.I. president Leonard Crawford at a press conference on Tuesday.
CUPE P.E.I. is referring to Bill 102, which was introduced in the fall by Progressive Conservative MLA Jamie Fox. The bill was unanimously passed in the legislature and received royal assent in December. But the bill to amend the Workers Compensation Act was never proclaimed by cabinet.
On May 4, the Liberals began debating their own bill (Bill 2) to replace the bill that was already passed.
At the press conference, CUPE P.E.I., along with the P.E.I. Nurses Union and the P.E.I. Federation of Labour, stated they want the original Bill 102 proclaimed into law.
“We’re fully behind having some action on this bill,” said Carl Pursey, president of the P.E.I. Federation of Labour. “We thought it was going to happen. But, when they brought this other bill in, they tried to derail the whole process.”
The press conference at CUPE P.E.I.’s Paramount Drive office in Charlottetown was also attended by first responders and PC Party MLAs.
Jason Woodbury, president of CUPE Local 3324 and fire chief of the Miscouche Fire Department, noted that the new bill should be commended for expanding the scope of coverage, but he criticized the bill for limiting access to services by having only psychiatrists and psychologists capable of delivering a PTSD diagnosis. Physicians, which were included in the original bill, are removed from Bill 2. The new bill expands the scope of injuries that may receive compensation to trauma- and stress-related disorders in addition to PTSD.
“We would like to see a resolution to this by the time the house closes the spring session. It’s been going on long enough. People are hurting, and it’s ruining people’s lives and they need some help.”
Woodbury added that other jurisdictions, such as Alberta and Manitoba, allow physicians to make a PTSD diagnosis in workers compensation cases. As well, the proposed coverage presumes the injury is work-related, unless the contrary is proven (so-called presumptive coverage).
After the press conference, Woodbury said that taking physicians out of the equation is problematic because of the shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists in the province. The waiting list to see those professions for urgent cases is 48.8 days minimum with no compensation, he said.
“If they went to see a physician, they could possibly get that diagnosis and start immediate coverage through the Workers Compensation Act,” he said.
If Bill 102 isn’t passed by the end of the spring session, CUPE P.E.I. is going to launch an information campaign to make the public aware about the status of the bill and why it is important to Islanders, said Woodbury.
In a statement, the Workers Compensation Board says it has been providing coverage to workers with trauma-and-stressor-related disorders, including PTSD, since May 2016 as a result of policy amendments. Since then, the WCB says it has approved more than 90 per cent of claims filed for psychological or psychiatric conditions.
“The proposed government bill (Bill 2) is consistent with current WCB policy and national best practice, with the added “presumption” which will enable WCB to presume that a disorder is work related if work emerges as a causal factor, regardless of other potential causes identified,” according to the statement.