QUEEN’S PARK – Official Opposition NDP critic for Mental Health and Addiction, Monique Taylor is introducing new legislation to guarantee essential workers have access to presumptive coverage for mental health benefits through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
“Workers on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19 have made incredible sacrifices, putting their own health at risk to keep us safe and care for our loved ones,” said Taylor. “They have worked long hours, often in the most difficult conditions without taking time off, and many have suffered from the mental and emotional toll this has had on them and their families. Workers have experienced stress and anxiety, and we are seeing more and more cases of post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions being reported.”
“They’ve served us all with courage and extraordinary dedication, and they deserve our support now and into the future.”
Taylor’s bill, Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act (Access to Mental Health Support for Essential Workers), 2021, provides workers designated as essential, or who are working in a workplace designated as essential, with the presumption that any mental health-related injuries they suffer arose from their work during the pandemic. This would entitle these workers to access WSIB benefits for chronic or traumatic mental stress injuries.
A recent Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) survey found that just over 60 per cent of nurses working in long-term care homes with large outbreaks reported they were experiencing symptoms of PTSD, and Taylor says many more Ontarians working in health care, retail, education and public health are facing mental health challenges due to their work during the pandemic.
“There are health care workers who repeatedly watched people take their dying breath without any family there to comfort them. There are long-term care home staff who had to walk away from residents crying out in pain because another person’s need was greater. There are educators who worked while stiff with fear to support children who need one-on-one help, but can’t wear a mask. The mental health impact of this pandemic will continue to be felt in the months and years to come, and we have a duty to ensure our frontline heroes get all the support they need,” said Taylor.
“It’s time for the Ford government to take action by supporting this legislation without delay. Every essential worker must have presumptive WSIB coverage for mental health treatment and support, without being forced to prove this was due to their experiences on the job.”
Taylor was joined at a press conference Tuesday by Tammy Reed, a worker from Grace Villa long-term care home in Hamilton, and Josie Barberi, a grocery worker from Toronto, who each shared their experiences working through the pandemic and the impact this has had on their mental health.