Whistleblower urges changes to way 911 workers treated with PTSD

A whistleblower is urging Ontario’s ombudsman to investigate how 911 workers are treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Retired OPP Det.-Insp. Bruce Kruger insists first responders across Ontario should petition Ombudsman Andre Marin to look into the “failures” of the “heartless” Ministry of Labour and Workplace Safety Insurance Board in handling 911 workers with the condition.

“It’s horrific to be treated the way that we are — and by the way, I’m just one guy. This is a continuing problem with so many of our officers,” Kruger said.

Among his complaints, Kruger alleges the board fails to conduct proper investigations into claims, egregiously delays claims, doesn’t respond to appeals, and displays a lack of confidentiality, as well as refusing to accommodate and reimburse the special expenses of mentally ill officers.

Little has changed in 25 years, said retired Ottawa Police Staff Sgt. Syd Gravel.

“They’re adversarial, so every application appears to me as if you’re almost going to get a denial right off the bat,” said Gravel, a PTSD survivor.

Gravel shot a robbery suspect — who wouldn’t show his hands — to death in 1987, then learned the man was unarmed.

After filing three appeals, “the guy who finally accepted it from WSIB said that it should never have been denied to start off with,” he said.

Labour Minister and Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Firefighters, police officers, paramedics and dispatchers are being asked to put their gripes about the current WSIB system on paper to bring about change.

Kruger’s plea to his peers comes nearly a year following Marin’s scathing report, In the Line of Duty, detailing how the OPP and the community safety and correctional services ministry mismanaged operational stress injuries.

Kruger filed a complaint with Marin’s office in 2010; his campaign bolstered by a Toronto Sun series detailing his plight.

Marin made 34 recommendations in his first report, and Kruger is pleased.

Provincial police and their assocation are “making great strides,” and attitudes toward PTSD are changing, he said.

Kruger’s willingness to speak out has been instrumental in bringing awareness to operational stress injuries among 911 workers, said retired Ottawa Police officer and PTSD survivor Peter Platt.

But there’s more work.

Gravel said he’s concerned first responders currently in the claims process won’t contact Marin’s office.

“People are terrified to come forward,” said Kruger.

The WSIB was unable to answer the Sun’s inquiry by deadline.

Twitter: @ottawasunkroche


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