Union calls for nurses to be included in workers mental health legislation

Acting president Christine Sorensen said omitting nurses discriminates against front-line workers

The BC Nurses’ Union is urging the province to include nurses in its new proposed legislation on mental health presumption, citing concerns those in the sector who see their fair share of trauma will still face barriers when seeking support and compensation for PTSD and other injuries.

On Wednesday, the province announced it would be introducing amendments to the Workers Compensation Act that, upon approval, would add post-traumatic stress disorder – or PTSD – and other mental injuries to a list of “presumptive conditions” no longer requiring workers to prove their disease or disorder is work-related.

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Union acting president Christine Sorensen said in a statement Thursday that while the union welcomes the support from B.C. politicians for first responders, nurses also face similar routine exposure to trauma in the course of their jobs.

“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,” she said, adding that the union provided data to the ministry but were still left out.

She said omitting nurses from this week’s announcement impacts the well-being of their families, their quality of life and the sustainability of the health care system.

According to the union, 76 nurses registered claims for post-traumatic stress disorder – or PTSD – in 2016. WorkSafe BC data suggested that in that same year, nurses accounted for 12 per cent of all mental disorder claims and 10 per cent of PTSD claims.

“This is a set-back for nurses who give and give until they cannot give anymore,” Sorenson said.

“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.”

Sorensen called on Labour Minister Harry Bains to amend the legislation to include nurses to the list of professions, which currently includes firefighters, police officers, paramedics, sheriffs and correctional officers.

Bains was in the legislative chamber Thursday afternoon, and unavailable to comment.

In an emailed statement to Black Press Media, labour ministry spokesperson Julianne McCaffrey said Bains has spoken with representatives at BCNU, and is committed to ensuring that all workers who experience mental trauma at work receive the care and supports that they need in the most timely way possible.

“That is why we drafted the legislation in a way that allows for other categories of workers to be added,” she said.

Until the proposed legislation is passed, any worker in B.C. can make a claim if their mental trauma is directly linked to their job, but do have to prove it is work related.


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