Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (November 2015)
A new report by City of Toronto Ombudsman, Fiona Crean, concludes that the city’s paramedic service needs to offer more assistance to its workers who suffer from psychological stress and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Published online on November 13, 2015, Making the Strong Stronger: An Investigation into How the Toronto Paramedic Services Address Staff Operational Stress Injuries, is based on an investigation that Crean launched in June 2015, after numerous complaints from paramedics about how Toronto Paramedic Services (TPS) handled its staff operational-stress injuries (OSI). The Ombudsman encouraged TPS employees to tell their stories confidentially, according to a statement from July 02, 2015.
“The investigation found that TPS has in place the elements of a comprehensive psychological-services program. However, those elements are insufficiently coordinated,” Crean writes in the report’s executive summary. “TPS is not immune from the societal stigma associated with mental illness. “This stigma permeates most of our organizations and communities. In first-responder, paramilitary and military institutions, the stigma is exponentially more pervasive because of the added suck-it-up attitude.
She adds that the stigma around OSI, coupled with the challenging work of TPS paramedics and dispatchers, means that the TPS has the responsibility to continue making improvements.
Crean’s 89-page report analyzes the history of the TPS, the components of its psychological support program and the perspectives of employees who have spoken to Crean. She offers 26 recommendations for improving the support systems for Toronto paramedics, which include the following: institute a psychological health and wellness plan with better communication and coordination training; provide an offsite location where paramedics can meet with a therapist confidentially and anonymously; and conduct a full review of the role and services of in-house psychologists and evaluate how compatible they are with the overall psychological health and wellness plan.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a very real condition that must be dealt with head on. Gone are the days when unsympathetic supervision closes their minds to real issues. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) states that supervision MUST ensure that they do everything reasonable in the circumstances in the protection of the worker. Section 27, subsection 2(c)
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