Ontario bill would allow first responders with PTSD quicker treatment

By Allison Jones


TORONTO _ Paramedic Marcel Martel never stopped hearing the screams of the parents of the little boy who died right in front of him 15 years ago.

After Martel responded to the call in 2001 of the boy being run over by a vehicle he took two weeks off work, but he said his manager couldn’t understand why. It was his job.

The paramedic from North Bay, Ont., has now been off work again since September, when he was finally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It was just a buildup over the years, to the point where I just had a breakdown and couldn’t work anymore,” he said.

Martel is now waiting for the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to approve his claim. He hopes that provincial legislation introduced Thursday will help him and other first responder colleagues.

The law would create a presumption that PTSD in first responders is work related, removing the need for them to prove a causal link to the WSIB, and allowing them to get quicker and easier access to benefits and treatment.

It would cover police officers, firefighters, paramedics, workers in correctional institutions, dispatchers of police, firefighter and ambulance services, and First Nations emergency response teams.

“A lot of us are suffering,” Martel said Thursday after the labour minister introduced the legislation.

“We’re humans just like anybody else … You get to a point where you can’t function anymore.”

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said he needs the help of first responders, who are at least twice as likely compared to the general population to suffer PTSD, to end the stigma.

“There are first responders who don’t step forward because they think their colleagues or their brother and sisters will think less of them, or they won’t see them as a trusted or as a reliable partner,” he told a room full of first responders on hand for the announcement.

“Let me tell you, it takes a very strong, sensible and courageous person to step forward and to get that help. I need everyone in this room to share this message with the people they work with,” he said, becoming choked up.

Employers of first responders will also be required under the legislation to create and provide the minister with PTSD prevention plans.

Flynn recognized the work on this issue of NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo, who has been pushing for years for better supports for first responders through various attempts at legislation.

The PTSD presumption in the legislation would apply to new claims, as well as pending claims and claims in the process of being appealed, but DiNovo said she hoped in committee to also make it retroactive.

Aside from that, she said the legislation “is exactly what we wanted.”

“This is a workplace injury and that’s what we’ve been fighting for,” she said.

Martel said he hopes the legislation passes quickly so he can get the proper help. For now, he is on antidepressants and sleeping pills “to prevent these nightmares from happening.”



Canada: Cuba visitors face new medical insurance rule

CBC News

Canadians travelling to Cuba will be required to present proof of health insurance to enter the country as of Saturday.

To meet the requirement, travellers should have travel insurance that covers medical expenses, the Cuban government said.

“Upon arrival, travellers may be required to present an insurance policy, insurance certificate, or medical assistance card valid for the period of their stay in Cuba,” Foreign Affairs says in its travel report for the country.

“Those who do not have proof of insurance coverage may be required to obtain health insurance from a Cuban insurance company when they arrive.”

Provincial health insurance plans do not provide direct coverage for out-of-country emergency medical services.

Supplemental health insurance urged

Provincial plans may cover only part of the costs and will not pay the bill up front as Cuba requires, Foreign Affairs noted.

“It is therefore recommended that travellers purchase supplemental health insurance,” the department said.

Canadian visitors carrying only provincial government health insurance cards will have to pay Cuban hospitals, doctors or other providers in full at the time of treatment and then seek reimbursement from their provincial plans, which normally cover only a fraction of the charges.

Some private insurers also require the traveller to pay costs up front and be reimbursed later, Foreign Affairs noted.

All health insurance policies will be recognized except those issued by U.S. insurance companies, which cannot provide coverage in Cuba.

Provincial health plans also strongly urge residents to purchase supplemental travel insurance for any trips they make out of the country. Provincial plans also do not cover the cost of ground ambulance in Cuba or repatriation back to Canada on commercial airlines or air ambulance.

“People do need to have supplementary insurance, either purchasing coverage through their employer or employer benefit plan or on a credit card,” Martha Turnbull, president of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA), said in an interview.

The association also encouraged Canadians to get a letter from their insurance company or employer stating they do have coverage.

Turnbull suggested Canadians also consider insuring their travel arrangements since getting home early from Cuba or cancelling a trip can be expensive.

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As Cdn’s gain weight, London paramedics invest in $30k power stretchers to avoid back injuries

By Jonathan Sher, Postmedia Network

With the fattening of Canadians costing London paramedics perhaps more than $100,000 a year for work lost to back injury, the local EMS has replaced all stretchers with powered models that lift up to 700 pounds.

The powered stretchers cost nearly $30,000 each, more than $1 million for 35, but paramedics say it’s a wise buy that will save backs, knees and the cost of filling in for those too hobbled to work.

“It will definitely decrease injuries and decrease long-term disability claims,” Jay Loosley, a superintendent at Middlesex London EMS, said Tuesday.

In what public health officials are calling the obesity epidemic, the population continues to gain weight

As recently as the 1980s, paramedics had to show they could lift a maximum of 165 pounds. But now, 10 per cent of Canadian men weight at least 228 pounds, EMS director Neil Roberts wrote when he asked Middlesex County council for funding.

“In what public health officials are calling the obesity epidemic, the population continues to gain weight,” Roberts wrote.

Back injuries last year accounted for nearly half of workplace insurance claims at the local EMS at a cost of $160,000. That doesn’t include the expense of modifying responsibilities when paramedics return to work.

So, rather than phase out the manual stretchers, as many EMS services have done, paramedics decided to replace all 35 at once — a move that may be the first-ever in Ontario.

“I’m not aware of any services that have done it all at once,” Loosley said.

With manual stretchers, paramedics raised and lowered the legs of the stretcher repeatedly to get patients on and off of ambulances, all while bearing the weight while one squeezed a lever to release the legs. That left paramedics lifting each patient five times, about 4,500 pounds lifted each day with just three trips to hospital.

The powered stretchers support up to 700 pounds and have legs that each go up or down with the touch of a button — prompting this slogan by the Ohio-based manufacturer Ferno: “Navigate obstacles with your thumb, not your back.”

Paramedics need only to lift patients onto the stretcher at the scene and take them off at hospital.

“(Paramedics) are really happy about their knees and backs,” Loosley said.

Paramedics also can also manoeuvre the powered stretchers over curbs and onto landings. Patients benefit too, Loosley said, because the new stretchers provide more support and cushioning.

“It’s a more comfortable and secure ride,” he said.

The manual stretchers, some as old as 20 years, were sold, while the new models arrived late last year, with training on how best to use them continuing this week.

The county council backed the purchase of the most expensive of three models but only after paramedics test drove each, finding that only one model — the Ferno iN/X — had everything needed. Two other models would needed additional technology and equipment to be bought separately. The county manages the EMS that also serves London.

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Testing of Alaska Seafood Finds No Contamination From 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Alaska health officials say tests have again confirmed that Alaska seafood has not been tainted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster four years ago.

FishA magnitude-9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011, generated a 130-foot (39-meter) wave that devastated 217 square miles (562 square kilometres) in Japan. About 16,000 people were confirmed dead and nearly 2,600 were never found.

Among the damaged facilities was the nuclear plant complex at Fukushima, and meltdowns created fear that radionuclides might contaminate Alaska fish.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says testing of Alaska-caught fish sampled this year confirms the same results as 2014 testing _ no detection of radioactive hazards from Fukushima.

Fish were sampled from commercial processors around the state using U.S. Food and Drug Administration methods.


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