Manitoba first in country to offer PTSD coverage to all workers

Manitoba is set to introduce first-of-its-kind legislation in Canada for post-traumatic stress disorder coverage.

Premier Greg Selinger will make the announcement at noon Monday on the steps of the legislative building.

"This legislation is significant because it's all workers. No other jurisdiction in Canada has legislation that covers all workers," said John Baert, spokesman for the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union.

Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, lauded the legislation, which he said will go a long way to helping emergency responders who struggle with PTSD.

Right now, those suffering from PTSD must be diagnosed and prove they got it from their job. Rather than face that hassle, 60 to 70 per cent of firefighters with PTSD don't seek help, he said.

"What happens is they self-medicate. That's why we have such a high rate of alcoholism, drug abuse, very high rates of divorce — because they internalize it," Forrest said.

"And that's the wrong thing to do because if you internalize it, it culminates into a very tragic event such as suicide."

The new legislation will automatically allow any fire, police, emergency medical staff or nurse with PTSD to qualify for workers compensation.

"We've eliminated the bureaucracy. This is going to streamline the process," Forrest said.

The Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals came out in support of the move on Monday.

Officials with the MAHCP said they consulted with the Workers Compensation Board on the plan and are happy with the proposed legislative changes.

But the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is wary about the consequences of the legislation.

The CFIB's Elliot Sims said the move could lead to a spike in claims and drive up the premiums employers have to pay.

Sims said no one has studied the potential impact, and he wants to see financial projections for what it could cost insurers and businesses.

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