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Injured workers rising above

Bags Of Love

(By Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson)

Bags of Love Op Shop will open on the 31st July 2015

It has taken a lot longer than any of us at the Centre would have liked- however after many tears and a lot of frustration and loads of laughter and an rather risqué fashion parade the Bags of Love Op Shop will open on the 31st July 2015 .

It is yet another first in the wonderful world of workers compensation as the Bags of Love Op Shop is run completely by injured workers for the benefit of injured workers as each of them rebuild their lives in ways that has never been seen or done before.

“Bags of Love” aim to provide basic food supplies as often as is possible to ease the burden on the injured worker and the injured worker families.

There won’t be any speeches, and there won’t be any ribbons cut and the Australian stock market won’t have a sudden movement to indicate the importance of the opening of the OP Shop. (more…)

Interactions Between Injured Workers and Insurers in Workers’ Compensation Systems: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Research Literature.

(Excerpt from Interactions Between Injured Workers and Insurers in Workers’ Compensation Systems: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Research Literature.)

Finally, some research into claims management from the Institute for Safety Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR), Monash University by Kilgour E1, Kosny A, McKenzie D, Collie A.


Introduction Work-related injury is a major public health problem and a worker’s recovery can be shaped by their interactions with employers, healthcare providers and the workers’ compensation system.

Most research on the effects of compensation has concentrated on examining outcomes rather than considering the compensation process itself.

There has been little attention paid to the interactions between stakeholders and only recently has the client’s view been considered as worthy of investigation. This systematic review aimed to identify and synthesize findings from peer reviewed qualitative studies that investigated injured workers interactions with insurers in workers’ compensation systems. Method A search of six electronic library databases revealed 1,006 articles. After screening for relevance, 18 articles were read in full and a search of those bibliographies revealed a further nine relevant articles. Quality assessment of the 27 studies resulted in a final 13 articles of medium and high quality being retained for data extraction. Results Included studies focused mainly on experiences of injured workers, many of whom had long term claims. Findings were synthesized using a meta-ethnographic approach. Six themes were identified which characterised the interactions between insurers and injured workers.

The majority of interactions were negative and resulted in considerable psychosocial consequences for injured workers. Positive interactions were less frequently reported and included respectful, understanding and supportive communication and efficient service from insurers.

Conclusion Findings from this synthesis support the growing consensus that involvement in compensation systems contributes to poorer outcomes for claimants. Interactions between insurers and injured workers were interwoven in cyclical and pathogenic relationships, which influence the development of secondary injury in the form of psychosocial consequences instead of fostering recovery of injured workers. This review suggests that further research is required to investigate positive interactions and identify mechanisms to better support and prevent secondary psychosocial harm to injured workers

Yet Another Comedy of Errors: Act III, the Outcome


Those on long term benefits should be cut like 'low hanging fruit', Denis Cosgrove wearing my compensation.Scene I

The long-awaited meeting takes place, as scheduled, 11 months after my lodgement of a 93cd application.

Theo and I, together with my WorkCover Assist representative met with the Conciliator and K – a rather gruff and insensitive guy who is representing my VWA-appointed Agent. We have not met him before nor to our knowledge has he been involved in managing my claim. From the outset, it was obvious that he would fight against us every inch of the way. You can well imagine that the spirit of conciliation was lost upon him. He offered no apology for his rude behaviour.

If you do not know, conciliation is a voluntary, flexible, confidential and interest based process. The parties seek to reach an amicable settlement of disputes with the assistance of the conciliator, who acts as a neutral third-party (whilst still abiding by the system’s own legislation).

Just to recapitulate, we had raised three important disputed issues for conciliation:

(i) that part payments for my medical expenses were still outstanding;

(ii) that contrary to the “expert” opinion of my Agent, my working capacity was still limited to 15 hours a week and had not improved since the Medical Panel had examined me nor had I shown that I possess any new skills believed to be contributing to this added work capacity;

(iii) that my Agent was claiming that the date they are required to begin any payments is the date from when I “completed” the 93cd application (September 2013), and not the date on which I had actually lodged the application (June 2013). Until I had provided a current Tax return (which was a mandatory requirement and for the ATO is March of the following year), the application remained invalid; furthermore they consider my early June capacity date to be irrelevant. (more…)

I’ve been nominated for a WorkSafe Award


VWAAwardWebsiteHeaderI’ve met some incredible people who have become my dear friends and my greatest supports during my pain journey. One of whom I often rave about is the wonderful John Quintner, Consultant Physician in Rheumatology and Pain Medicine. You’ve seen him battle beside me publicly on social media. Not only helping me with my comprehension and study of chronic pain, John has also helped me through the tangled forest of Workers Compensation. He now advocates to expose the many pitfalls for injured workers in the various Australian Worker’s Compensation systems.

In supporting my unequal struggle with the Victorian Workcover Authority (VWA) he has witnessed what it takes to survive being in the system. As if his support isn’t enough, he now honours me by nominating me for a VWA Heath and Safety Award.

Soula, with your permission I have just nominated you for a Victorian WorkCover Authority Award in recognition of your long and arduous struggle against all odds to return to work. Whether or not the nomination is successful, I want you to know that in my opinion and in that of the other referees, Professor Stephen Gibson & Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson, you are most deserving of such recognition. In addition to your return to work, you have performed an important role in pain education as an advocate for sufferers of this distressing condition (pudendal neuralgia). Your ability to smile and to be creative in the face of adversity has been an inspiration to many pain sufferers around the world. I wish you the best of luck!

Basically, it’s about this:

Worker Return to Work Achievement. Tell us their story!
This category recognises a worker’s outstanding achievements in returning to work following a workplace injury.

Nominating a person, group or initiative is easy! All you need to do is tell us the nominee’s achievements by following the prompt questions – tell us what the person/business/group did, why they did it, and how it had a positive impact on their workplace.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but after experiencing the VWA culture for 7 years now, I’m pretty sure the nomination will be rejected for some paltry reason/s based on my pending application for part payments of compensation. It’s been over a year since I submitted that application, so they are obviously struggling to come to terms with the fact that I attempted a return to work. Accepting a nomination for someone they have not been supporting in their return to work would be hard to imagine. But I live in the hope that has sustained me so far – that of a successful outcome.

(Update July 22, 2014. Nomination accepted)

Nomination as submitted by John Quintner and supported by Professor Stephen Gibson and Rosemary McKenzie Ferguson:

Soula and her husband Theo run their own business in art and graphic design, providing creative solutions to their clients. Her injury has had a major impact upon their lives together, as well as upon their business. She has consulted many health professionals and has been given a large variety of opinions, investigations and treatment procedures.
Describe your job prior to your injury.

Prior to her injury she and her husband ran a highly successful business. Soula was also a prolific artist in her own right. She was very energetic and a great support to her family and friends.
How were you injured and what was your injury?

Soula fell onto her sacrum when a fit ball upon which she was seated burst. Her injury was extremely difficult to diagnose but after some considerable time her pelvic pain was ascribed to an injury to her pudendal nerve – pudendal neuralgia. The insertion of a pelvic nerve stimulator was a turning point in her rehabilitation. She is still quite disabled and requires regular medication for pain relief.
Describe the job they do now (including employer if different).

For the past 12 months Soula has been attempting a gradual return to work within her physical capacity and has reached 9 hours per week. She has had to overcome many physical difficulties in terms of her home and work environments. Soula is still engaged in art and design work. Since her injury she has taken on an important advocacy role for people suffering from pudendal neuralgia.
What were the hardest and best things about returning to work?

The hardest thing was the lack of support from her WorkCover-appointed Agent, who placed many obstacles in her path and has refused to pay her any compensation for the past 12 months. Soula has been examined by two medical assessment panels and has found the Conciliation process to be unhelpful. The Ombudsman has been approached for assistance. The best things have been her ability to retain a sense of humour, to remain creative and positive in the face of adversity and to provide inspiration to many pain sufferers around the world.
What do you think helped you most to return to work and get your life back?

The support of her husband and family, as well as her many friends in the art world and in the world of pain management. Last year, with the support of a pharmaceutical company and members of the Australian Pain Society, Soula addressed a meeting in Sydney of over 160 pain specialists. The text of her address to this meeting is posted on her website. She has also taken part in an advertisement to raise research funds for the Faculty of Pain Medicine, Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists. Soula has become an advocate for sufferers of pelvic pain conditions.
What advice would you give other injured workers?

The many injured workers and fellow pain sufferers who follow her web-log have benefited from reading about her quite varied experiences whilst in the WorkCover system. She found the system to be decidedly unfriendly to women with undiagnosed persistent pain but she has counselled them not to lose hope. For those who are faced with her situation, her advice to other injured workers is not to declare a work capacity,

View my nomination at www.healthandsafetyawards.vwa.vic.gov.au/browse-entries/entries/the-hurting-strings


My reply from the Victorian Workcover Authority


I thought it best to start another post rather than comment below my original post, Formal Complaint to WorkSafe. This really deserves some space and attention. I don’t think I need to say too much other than to explain the image is a copy of the letter I received from the Victorian Workcover Authority accompanied with my reply.

WorkSafe Reply To Soula Pg1WorkSafe Reply To Soula Pg2You can all make what you will of this exchange between me, the injured worker, and the system setup to provide ‘quality income protection’.

Dear Andrew.

Thank you for the belated response to my official complaint. I trust you will not mind if I respond and in so doing make some terse comments about the way in which your organisation has behaved towards me.

  • An injured worker should not have to be disadvantaged (such as held up payments) when a WorkSafe Agent employee is on leave. Your failure to address this complaint means that you do not see it as being an issue of importance. Am I reading you correctly?
  • I don’t appreciate having a valid point and being excluded from the Facebook page or having my posts deleted. Obviously WorkCover does not want to be seen in a bad light, giving the illusion that all injured workers are happy with the way they have been treated in your system.
  • I have asked 6 times where it is stated in the regulations that my WorkSafe Agent (enter WorkSafe Agent name) have 60 days to make a decision after a Medical Panels opinion has been delivered and have still not received an answer. In response you say: ‘These are matters that are outside of (worksafe agent’s name) control’, and ‘it has attributed to both the absence of a staff member and also the receipt of additional information about your capacity subsequent to the return of the Medical Panel opinion’ In fact the member was absent well after the 60 days following receipt of the Medical Panel’s opinion.
  • And the comment that follows constitutes a ‘catch all’ answer: ‘case officers generally have a good understanding of the Act and are able to respond to a broad range of enquiries. I am advised that the information required to respond to your enquiry was contained within the Administrative Law Act 1978.’  Can you please be more specific in order that I can understand your response?
  • I have asked about the surveillance evidence that was provided to the Medical Panel ‘for completeness’. I had previously requested all my surveillance material and was allegedly provided with ‘all of it’. I want to know where the additional information provided to the Panels came from and why it was not provided to me when I asked? The additional information was not provided to me and, as I have specified in previous emails, it relates to details of my travel to Italy posted on my Facebook art page. This information was never provided to me. Nor does it seem necessary for me to have to ask AGAIN for this information.
  • In sum, these responses make it absolutely clear to me just where Victorian Workcover Authority’s priorities lie – they are designed to avoid being seen to take any responsibility for the welfare of compensation claimants and their employers, whatever the cost may be to one or both of them.

And I want to express the following thoughts which are specific to the points I made in my original complaint: (more…)

A new workers compensation programme in South Australia


RosemaryI met Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson advocating an online forum for injured workers. She spoke in a way I’d never heard before, she spoke to me about support, empathy and trust, the ways an injured worker never experiences (I’m vouching for the Victoria’s system).

I’ve since had the pleasure of meeting Rosemary and we’ve become great friends. She’ll be in my life as long as we both live and anyone that has the pleasure of meeting her will say the same.

Rosemary’s efforts to help injured workers have been endless, not to mention exhausting since she’s trying to teach our Australian Government a language they don’t understand. I’m so happy to be able to include this post on my website and hope that it is the beginning of a new global, not just national, workers compensation scheme. Afterall, injured workers simply want to get better and back to work and this is something Rosemary believes and knows how to drive.

I have to warn any injured workers before reading the following, you’ll be left astounded and wondering if you’re in some backward and warped world. You’re about to read the very opposite of what you experience in the current workers compensation system. It’s quite shocking.

If you are in South Australia and are an injured worker, you can seek help from Rosemary’s Bags of Love program. Contact details below.

Craig’s Table

(excerpt by Rosemary)

Craig’s Table is very unique within the world of workers compensation, it is a 40 week community based training programme and community based work placement programme that invites employers in at every stage to see just what is going on and for the first time actually engages injured workers from point of injury to engage in meaningful and supportive engagement/employment that will provide real outcomes for injured workers instead of the current concept of churning injured workers to generate income for the provider but little to no outcome for injured workers.
Craig’s Table will for the first time actually set a benchmark standard so that in the future employers will be able to see that there is nothing to be concerned about in regard to employing an injured worker because the injured worker will be able to show that they have maintained their work ethic and gained very valuable skill sets along the way.

Craig’s Table is as you can see by the attached document not just a training programme, but a life skills training programme, it encompasses leadership training, financial training (the financial training is actually both a personal financial training course and a lead in training course for those who want to enter the world of finance) and ways to not just return to work, but skills required to gain different employment if that is required. There is also the basics of first aid, suicide prevention, food handling, manual handling and fire control.
The training component is (depending on each person) around 12 weeks in length –a lot of it is computer based, though there is also requirements for attending set components.
Each part of the training component will lead into the next stage working within the community based employment/engagement with people being able to opt into a section that is of interest to them.

What we promise is that injured workers will have a minimum of 40 weeks with Craig’s Table, we also accept that some injured workers will leave before the 40 weeks is up and that some injured workers may never leave as they will not be able to regain enough medical clearance capacity hours to move on.

The downside to all of this is that until there is enough funding to start Craig’s Table the project will sit on my desk.
The upside of this is that there is non-workers compensation people interested in setting the community garden and the commercial kitchen in place with plans being worked on and written up.

Craig’s Table has many layers to it, it is envisaged that the number of long-term claimants will drop simply because injured workers will not be isolated as they are now so the secondary depression will not have time to take hold, it is also believed by the workers compensation industry people here in Australia who have seen the concept that the amount of legal disputes will also drop, again because the injured workers will have access to a new set of information and be trained to control their own workers compensation claim rather than allow the legal people to take control. I am in talks with a colleague to be able to use the medical forms that he and a collection of others have written that will actually put real information in place so as injured workers will no longer be ignored or not listened to in the myriad of appointments that the workers compensation systems want them to attend.

Read more about Rosemary’s work at wirc.net.au
Rosmeary’s bio
Craig’s Table overview

P.O. Box 12, Welland
South Australia 5007
Phone: 08 8255 9138
Email: reception@wirc.net.au

Yet Another Comedy of Errors, Acts I & II



This is not really a comedy but without a sense of humour and the odd injection of sarcasm this injured worker would explode from the frustration and disappointment that being in this system has created.

I am heading back to conciliation on May 13 to battle for part-payments of compensation since declaring in December 2012 that I have a limited capacity for part-time work. I am also disputing my WorkSafe authorised Agent’s refusal to pay any of my medical expenses over the last 2-3 years.

Acts 1 and 2 can now be written but Act 3 will have to await the outcome of the conciliation conference. But as you will see, the outcome could well provide the comic highlight of the performance.

You in the audience may laugh, clap or cry as you read my sad little play. (more…)

Insurer acts under WorkCover’s big circus tent


April 17, 2014 (shared post from Theo to Soula’s Chronic Pelvic Pain Story Facebook page)

This SICK system has to be stopped…Soula Theo Walking Combi InvestigationSoula Theo Walking Combi Investigation
This makes me sick….!Ever been filmed when you didn’t know it? These are a couple of stills of surveillance footage from a WorkSafe Victoria agent (who I can’t mention… but there are only a few – from 2012 mind you) attempting to catch out Soula.Guess what WorkSafe Victoria agent??? Soula can walk!!! She never said she couldn’t.

This is very poor, extremely disgusting and a waste of time. The WorkSafe Victoria agent is trying so hard to make our life a misery but it’s only making us fight harder.

Anyway…., at least our dog Zephyr looks good in the clip!

April 16, 2014

I got some mail today. Theo had to carry and open it, the pile of papers were too heavy to lift!ConciliationMail-04

It’s astounding the levels the WorkSafe Agent will stoop too (which are the levels WorkSafe obviously set) in order to avoid their responsibility with my WorkCover claim. I’m going to keep up with this documenting as I want to encourage other injured workers to fight these pathetic insurer circus acts. It’s unacceptable, not to mention, not what my WorkCover premium was paid for. Where’s my ‘quality income protection’, where is my return to work help, and where is my income and medical financial help?

This is what the conciliation process looks like and for those of you who missed the full story read about it here. The conciliator assigned to my conference on May 13, has so kindly taken the time to photocopy and send me the copies of what the WorkSafe Agent has sent through in support of their case to reject my part payments and medical reimbursements. I’d like you all to give me your opinion actually. The shots below include copies of the public information I’ve posted about The Design Files media Theo and I had, my Doug Moran Semi Finalist entry, my drawings of Lynn, other artwork etc… I know the insurer is showing great faith in my art career and somehow trying to state I’m actually making some kind of wage from my art (how lovely of them to do so), but I’m wondering what the insurer is trying to say by posting images of my home? Clearly not including the info as a positive information, so why is that in here? Is an injured worker meant to have a certain appearance/home, are they not allowed media… I’m a bit confused? (more…)

No Partridge in a Pear Tree to be Found, I’m Preparing for Conciliation… Again!


(Sing with me, to the tune of ‘The 12 Days of Christmas”:

16 points of stimulation,
Multiple case managers,
Too many Independent* Medical Examinations,
Nine anaesthetics,
Several investigations,
Wasted complaints to WorkSafe,
Four conciliation applications,
Three operations,
Two Medical Panel Opinions,
One Impairment Assessment,
No Partridge in a Pear Tree to be found…

AND, still, no financial support. AND, still, no understanding of my Workers Compensation case.

My application for part payments has been rejected on the grounds that the Worksafe Agent feels I have more capacity and has gathered that opinion from my advocacy efforts, the maintenance of this website, and my art projects. So, I’m off to conciliation once again to explain what should be obvious, or rather could be explained with a phone call. But you’re not going to get that kind of service or understanding within our WorkCover system. It’s nothing but doubt and a point of the finger, turning real facts into incorrect assumptions which ultimately block all healing and return to work pathways for an honest injured worker.

Damned if I’m going to keep my mouth shut, or my return to work efforts contained. To be honest, the system is giving me nothing to lose here and every excuse to keep exposing it and its limitations. I want to get back to work and I will use any talent I have to get there, I’m a self employer. Even if that means more conciliation conferences and withstanding 15 months without a single cent. There are other injured workers to think about here too, this isn’t just about me. (more…)

Insult and Injury


How’s this for an opening line to my post:

Perspectives on workers compensation issues from Dr Peter Sharman – Occupational Physician.

Hopeful and hopeful is it not? Finally a practitioner putting it out there and standing up for a better Australian Worker’s compensation system.

It’ll be no surprise that Dr Sharman and I connected over a few tweets of frustration and WorkSafe/WorkCover hashtags. He’s been a fabulous support since, providing honest and open conversation about the primitive ways of the system, whilst expressing his frustration with not being able to help injured workers more. Well, now he is really helping injured workers and I believe it’s time for other practitioners to support him too. Peter has thrown open the topic and put it up for discussion on a fabulous blog platform. He’s also putting his views out there on how we can have a better quality system. I can’t wait to read his posts, they will be a huge support for me particularly now as I am heading back, once again, to conciliation to battle for my rightful compensation after a rejected part payment application (93cd) from my WorkSafe Agent (which now leaves me at 14 months with $0/0% support during my return to work process).

The literature is clear that people whose injuries are managed within a compensation system have worse outcomes, but why? Insurers would have you believe it is all because of fraud, secondary gain or that injured workers don’t want to get better. In reality it is more complex. Certainly there are issues about ’taking responsibility’  for one’s own recovery that can be lacking within a compensation system, but there are many other factors that affect the outcome. Important issues include stigmatisation of workers who put in claims and lack of access to appropriate treatment. The system often unreasonably questions a person’s genuineness, creating a response to prove there has been injury. The system of claims management remains adversarial. Responses include the development of secondary psychological illness which can be more disabling than the original injury. These issues can have dramatic effects on injured workers, i.e. Adding Insult to Injury….

…As a practitioner in private medical practice, I wanted to contribute to debate from my experience of the problems with the workers compensation system. Not only to raise issues, but to put forward solutions. That is difficult as a solo practitioner.

Here’s your chance practitioners, stand up, contribute and speak out. Demand a better Worker’s Compensation system.

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What is Pudendal Neuralgia (PN)?

Most simply put PN is Carpal Tunnel in the pelvis/buttocks. Compression of the Pudendal Nerve occurs after trauma to the pelvis and is aggrevated with pressure. The pain is often described as a toothache like pain, with spasms, sensations of tingling, numbness, or burning. It can be very debilitating.

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