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A horrid equation: Medical + Legal = Medical Panels

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From where I’m standing, you could never believe our Government has set up a system to support injured workers.

This very system that was established (apparently) for the injured worker is very well calculated and excruciating to navigate and whilst navigating it, the injured worker usually remains unfed and untreated.

My complete process from application to outcome and reimbursement of weekly payments (if I ‘win’) could go on almost a year. And there was a year before that when the system threw me into a disillusioned hole when it pulled the rug from under me after I declared a part time work capacity.

If you’re an injured worker reading this – don’t ever declare a part time capacity until you’re sure you have a solid one.

Whichever way you look at the situation for injured workers, the equation always adds up to unnecessary, unfair and insensitive treatment.

While I wait for the Medical Panels to send me their decision, their faces, movements, questions and gestures swirl around my head and I try desperately to guess the outcome.

Even at 2am, I fail to guess. It should be simple to go to an appointment and explain your personal health status shouldn’t it? It’s simple for my pain team.

However it isn’t simple for the Medical Panel because it’s not an appointment, it’s an assessment – they’re not the same. From my experience, this assessment is a full blown investigation and that so severely changes the experience… and my heart rate. I doubt I need to state that this scenario changes my pain levels but if I do, head back to page 1 of this website and start reading again.

In a recent post I shared on social media asking the feedback of my professional network (who I appreciate being connected to so very much), I asked about the general protocol for shaking hands with a patient.

The reason I asked is because one psychiatrist at the Medical Panels chose to shake my hand while the other chose not to (yes I had to be assessed by two psychiatrists). It made me very uncomfortable (to say the very least about my discomfort that day).

A most reputable pain professional responded from the social media post with this comment:

Medical panels is a forum not for medicine but to inform a legal decision about injured people. I say legal rather than justice and these are very different. The law is cold and panels is not a place to go for diagnosis treatment or advice. Warmth and a normal clinical transaction it isn’t

I could end the post with that comment as it really nailed it for me. Except my mind continues to run and now the swirl in my brain has become clearer and I begin to recognise the difference between my medical practitioner’s appointment and the Medical Panels’ assessment.

During the Medical Panels’ assessment, it felt like the ‘professionals’:

  • were investigating and gathering evidence
  • didn’t care (obviously they can’t!)
  • might have a kind of Jekyll and Hyde existence
  • had planned the assessment
  • were recording me
  • (one of the psychiatrists) had an ulterior motive for the speed ball questioning style
  • (psychiatrists in particular) did not have appropriate chronic pain qualifications
  • unnecessarily sought definite answers from me about living with pain (eg, how many Panamax per week, how many phone calls do I make a week, how many times do I post to social media)
  • switched the purpose of the appointment to be for them instead of me
  • forgot the reason they became medical practitioners
  • have become detached from reality

It’s no wonder I came out of their feeling like I was a rung out sponge. I could have burst into tears and collapsed to the floor I was so battered after the hour long drilling (plus the 20 minutes I had to wait because they were running late, AND the week since the previously cancelled appointment).

It alarms me that five human beings can demand all your intimate details and make you feel that they don’t care while they’re doing this.

I completely understood the woman crying after her appointment in the toughened glass surrounded reception area. Through tears she described the experience perfectly;

‘Their questions never match the answers you have’

There’s a whole other blog post in that comment.

It’s disgraceful that the personal experience, medical reports and evidence an injured worker has, is not sufficient for the system and that we have to go through this as well as manage the loss of our lives as we knew them.

WorkSafe have already informed Theo that the insurer will most likely contest the opinion of the Medical Panels (if it goes my way). That will take a few weeks. Then a conciliation date needs to be set… could be court after that…

You certainly wouldn’t want to be unwell, unable to work and caught up in this horrid equation. But I am. And I will be keeping you all posted.

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  • Franny

    Soula, you are such a fighter. I admire your strength and wish I had half as much. I am being done over by both the legal and workcover systems at the moment. I can never do my job again, w/c are paying me out with a pathetic sum of $, I have been a loyal employee for 28yrs but as soon as I get my so called “compensation ” I will be terminated from my job. I can’t receive any Centrelink money for 5years. I could risk it and go to trial but if the jury award me less than 90% of what I’ve been offered I’m screwed and have to pay their legal costs. All this because I hurt my back due to the negligence of my employer and my nerve failed to recover because of the negligence of the Alfred hospital and further delays caused by workcover. Go figure. Is this a fair system? Keep fighting you deserve more.

    • soula

      Franny I’m sad to read your message. I feel your pain. I just don’t understand how cruel this country can be and how narrow minded and greedy. Could there be anything worse (other than losing a loved one or terminal illness) than being so unwell you can’t work? You’re a strength to me, I wish I could help. Your scenario is another horrid calculated equation. Our government loves these insurers – monsters! Sending strength, love and patience!

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