Mehlville firefighters with cancer will get coverage

Fire+Chief+Brian+Hendricks+speaks+during+a+MFPD+Board+of+Directors+meeting.

Photo by Jessica Belle Kramer

Fire Chief Brian Hendricks speaks during a MFPD Board of Directors meeting.

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

The Mehlville Fire Protection District will begin to offer enhanced benefits to employees diagnosed with cancer after the Board of Directors approved changes to the fire district’s employee manual last month.

Board members unanimously approved the changes to the Employee Manual of Policies and Procedures, or EMoPP, at their Feb. 26 meeting.

The new policy treats an employee’s cancer differently than the district has in the past, providing benefits for cancer treatment. The policy applies to all types of cancer. A notable example of an MFPD colleague who received cancer on the job was the district’s medical director Dr. Chris Bosche, who was a medical doctor and firefighter who died of cancer related to his emergency response on 9/11.

Employees diagnosed with cancer will have their position held up to 24 months and available for them to return to employment with a physician release. In addition to paying medical insurance premiums, the district will also pay the employee portion of the deductible for up to 12 months.

Long-term disability supplemental earnings will also be extended under the plan.

Chief Brian Hendricks said at the Feb. 12 meeting that he had been working on the new plan, which has “become prevalent in fire service,” for awhile with board Treasurer Bonnie Stegman. Some states have passed laws to assume that any firefighter’s cancer diagnosis was caused by fighting fires, but Missouri has not.

“I believe that the policy that is before you in a very comprehensive manner covers the employees who would be going through a cancer diagnosis, cancer treatment and also make sure that the employee is covered in all those areas as well as knows they don’t have to worry about employment,” Hendricks said. “They don’t have to worry about losing their job.”

To be eligible for the benefits, an employee must be employed with the fire district for at least 10 years, and not be older than 65 at the time of the cancer diagnosis.

“This has affected the Mehlville Fire Protection District personally with employees that we have and felt that it was appropriate to start getting ahead of this and being proactive with it,” said Hendricks. “This is in line with other preventative measures that we’ve taken and additional preventative measures that we have to come (and) I think really gives us a comprehensive approach to how we can address cancer within the Mehlville Fire Protection District.”

The proposal was formally adopted after the meet-and-confer process with the MFPD union, Mehlville Local 2665 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Stegman, board Chairman Aaron Hilmer and Secretary Ed Ryan all voted yes.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to clarify  the actual wording in the policy.