It’s Mental Health Week, yet David Eby’s decision to minimize the impacts of psychological or psychiatric conditions arising from collisions is a major step in the wrong direction.

NDP proposal puts profits over people

Published May 7, 2018 by Neil Godbout

Imagine if you were the truck driver involved in last month’s horrific crash that killed 16 people on the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus.

Or imagine if you were one of the first responders on the scene.

The likelihood of those people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychological effects requiring extensive and ongoing medical treatment is high.

Yet drivers and first responders could be treated completely different under proposed legislation.

If Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty’s bill gets through committee in the Senate and is brought into law, Canadian first responders will get the attention they need to help cope in the aftermath of such tragedies.

Meanwhile, if the B.C. NDP successfully redefines the kinds of injuries ICBC is willing to pay after vehicle accidents, all psychological and psychiatric conditions connected to a crash will be deemed a “minor injury.”

The B.C. Psychological Association is sounding the alarm on this ridiculous and potentially harmful change.

The government is defining a psychological and psychiatric minor injury as any condition that is resolved within a year of the accident and meets other criteria which they have not bothered to define yet, much like the proportional representation referendum question.

As the association rightly points out, the 12-month timeframe is an arbitrary limit not connected to health outcomes.

“The duration of symptoms after an event is not an appropriate scientific measure of the severity of the psychological injury,” the association says.

Furthermore, this flies in the face of the medical literature which clearly shows that “psychological injuries are not minor injuries,” much like concussions.

Each individual and each circumstance is different when it comes to symptoms and their severity.

Other factors, such as the extent of physical injuries sustained in the crash, pre-existing medical conditions and cultural background, also play a role.

As Darby Allen, the now-retired Fort McMurray fire chief told a Prince George audience during last month’s Bob Ewert Dinner and Lecture, his own issues with depression and anxiety didn’t manifest themselves until months after the worst of the fire.

And as anyone who continues to deal with mental health issues knows, people can feel better and be symptom-free but then relapse at a later date, just like cancer and many other physical conditions.

The NDP government has created an appeal process through the Civil Resolution Tribunal but the psychological association doesn’t believe that’s fair.

“Those suffering from psychological conditions are ill-equipped to deal with an appeal process on their own. It is also unlikely that many of those people will be able to have the assistance of a lawyer in this process,” the association says.

“This process, online and/or in person, also puts at a disadvantage the elderly, people without computers or computer skills, those with poor English language skills, and those of limited means.”

If the government cares more about the health of accident victims (often the same people paying the insurance premiums) and less about ICBC’s profitability, the “minor injury” designation is unnecessary since the most important result (and cheapest solution) is timely treatment and recovery for those affected.

Psychological conditions brought on by vehicle accidents don’t care who is at fault or to what extent.

In the case of the truck driver in the Humboldt crash, he deserves care for his physical and psychological injuries from the crash, regardless of the degree to which he may (or may not) be at fault.

Home insurance companies don’t get to walk away from negligent homeowners who lose everything after they accidentally forgot to shut the stove off, nor should vehicle insurance companies get to do the same to drivers.

The provincial government doesn’t worry much about home insurance because it isn’t in that business but it wants to set terms on vehicle insurance because it owns the provider, an obvious conflict of interest.

Instead of letting the doctors, the lawyers, past precedent, the marketplace and what’s right for the affected individuals dictate the outcome, the NDP jumps in because it knows what’s best for everyone and will impose it on them, whether they need it or not.

If the NDP were still in opposition and the B.C. Liberals had decreed that psychological conditions resulting from vehicle crashes were minor injuries, John Horgan would have rightfully called the government heartless for putting profits over people and the insurance company ahead of the drivers paying the premiums.

There are plenty of problems with ICBC for Horgan and the NDP to fix.

This proposed change is just another problem, not a solution.

— Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout

Read the full story at the Prince George Citizen here.