B.C. expands firefighter cancer coverage

British Columbia is expanding cancer coverage for firefighters in the province.

On Tuesday, the B.C government announced that it was amending the Firefighters’ Occupational Disease Regulation to add two cancers to the list of existing cancers and diseases that crews are at risk of developing.

The addition of pancreatic and thyroid cancers means firefighters who develop these conditions after a certain period of employment may be eligible for compensation benefits without having to prove the cancer is related to their job.

The move is being applauded by the president of the BC Professional Firefighters Association, Gord Ditchburn, and the Vancouver Firefighters Union.

“We’re very excited. This is, if you will, a long time coming in getting this done and we’re extremely excited with it for our members and their respective families,” he told CityNews.

Ditchburn says his group has been advocating for recognition of occupational diseases for firefighters since 2005. Within the last year, five cancers have been added to the list.

The association president could not say how many of his fellow firefighters have developed diseases over the years, only telling CityNews “it’s too many.”

“I’m tired of going to funerals of firefighters who are dying from heart disease, occupational stress injuries, cancers. Cancer is the number one killer of firefighters,” Ditchburn explained.

He says he believes the changes to the regulation under the Workers Compensation Act will help firefighters receive treatment quicker, and properly compensate families who have lost loved ones.

“Once they’re diagnosed and the claims go through, it’s going to allow them [to receive] the proper coverage they need. And, unfortunately, if they succumb, it’s going to give comfort to their family.”

With Tuesday’s announcement, B.C. now recognizes 18 cancers as occupational diseases for firefighters.

That list includes primary leukemia, primary non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, primary site bladder cancer, primary site brain cancer, primary site colorectal cancer, primary site kidney cancer, primary site lung cancer, primary site testicular cancer, primary site ureter cancer, primary site esophageal cancer, primary site breast cancer, primary site prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, primary site ovarian cancer, primary site cervical cancer, and primary site penile cancer, according to B.C.’s Workers Compensation Act.

For each cancer listed above, a firefighter must work a minimum amount of years to apply for coverage. The lowest cumulative period is currently five years.


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