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article imageCanadian Firemen told to stop helping coworker with cancer

By Karen Graham     Aug 1, 2015 in World
Regina - When Tanner Brotzel was diagnosed with cancer in December, his coworkers didn't hesitate to offer to help him in every way possible, including covering his shifts at the firehouse in Saskatchewan's capital city of Regina.
Covering Brotzel's shifts allowed the courageous firefighter to concentrate on his treatments, which can be physically and emotionally draining, without worrying about losing his job, or benefits and pay.
But last week, the Regina Fire and Protective Services told Brotzel's coworkers they no longer be allowed to cover for their colleague. "I don't know exactly why there was a change. We've never been given a real reason," Brian Seidlik, Brotzel's platoon leader and the president of the Regina Professional Fire Fighters Association, told CTV's Canada AM.
Seidlik said Brotzel's colleagues were more that eager to help their friend and coworker out. "The members around the fire hall sat down and decided that they would work for him, and approached Tanner and said, 'Don't worry about it Tanner. We've got your shifts covered.'" Seidlik said. "And Tanner said 'That's the best thing that could ever happen.'"
The arrangement seemed to be working very well, at least until last Friday. It was then the firefighters received notice they were not allowed to cover for their friend and coworker. The notification has put Brotzel in a tough position, says Fox News.
"We were notified that this process would no longer happen. No more replacements. And he would either have to go on long-term disability or come back to work and, unfortunately, he is coming back to work," Seidlik said.
The problem is, while Brotzel is entitled to disability benefits, he would only get a fraction of his monthly pay, and the benefits might not kick in for months, putting Brotzel in serious financial crisis, said Seidlik.
At the same time, the director of Regina Fire and Protective Services has told Brotzel that if his fellow firefighters continue to cover for him, it could adversely affect his ability to access his full disability benefits. Fire Chief Ernie Polsom said Brotzel needed to apply soon for his long-term disability, which include a wide range of benefits besides wage replacement.
In a statement, Polsom said: "While we understand the positive intent of the firefighters to support their colleague during his illness, their actions covering his shifts put Tanner Brotzel's access to benefits at risk."
Polsom also said an investigation is underway to determine how the firefighters were able to cover Brotzel's shifts unnoticed for seven months. But Seidlik says the focus should be on his friend, Tanner, and not on the firefighters trying to help him.
"It's about Tanner, and Tanner chose to access the goodwill of our members, our team members that stepped up and offered to work for him," Seidlik said. "The focus should be Tanner, and Tanner getting better."
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