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Act 3 – explained

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Big day for me today. Thank you to the Victorian Ombudsman and to all the injured workers who spoke up.

…Sadly too late – won’t bring our beautiful home and life back.

Act 3: Home lost to these vile insurer (and WorkSafe Victoria supported), unjust actions:

‘At interview, one former agent employee said that management placed pressure on staff to maintain decisions at conciliation and to not pay compensation past a certain date. This was to ensure the agent did not ‘breach’ their ‘targets’.

Read the article and full investigation, Investigation into the management of complex workers compensation claims and WorkSafe oversight on the Victorian Ombudsman’s website

Also worth reading: WorkSafe: complex claims process needs fixing

Worksafe’s Dirty tactics – finally realised

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I woke up crying last night. I hardly ever cry. My boiling point hits when I’m feeling that I’m in a situation where I see no hope in sight and that I’m being treated unfairly and disrespectfully.

My boiling points have been few during the minute-to-minute demands of chronic pain management (over the last 9+ years) because it makes sense to me that you can have an accident and things can go wrong in life – that’s understandable although very upsetting and very difficult to deal with.

However, in respect to managing as a self employed injured worker with a workers compensation claim, I am unable to accept and understand the unfair and unjust treatment our Victorian system delivers.

I’ve felt the treatment from the insurer managing my claim (I don’t need to name them because they’re all the same!), Worksafe, the Independent Medical Examiners (IME’s), the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service (ACCS) and the Medical Panel IME’s has been unfair, unjust and throughout the 9+ year ordeal, I have sensed a corruptness about it.

Why? Because the system has no way of assessing chronic pain. No one asks the neuropathic pain related questions and given chronic pain is invisible, it makes it almost impossible for me to explain the injury.

That means it makes it really easy for the insurer to make me look like there’s nothing wrong with me and that I have more ability than I state.

Why was I in tears of frustration last night?

Because the insurer monster handling my claim has rejected the previous  Medical Panel Opinion from 2014 (yes the document that is meant to be binding in Federal court) for a reason I still don’t understand and no one can explain. In the next couple of months, I have to return to the ACCS for yet another horrific examination by yet another 5 IME’s who know they have no means of assessing neuropathic pain but who still require me to undress and who measure my scars (having no place to put the evidence) in order to somewhat respond to the insurer’s pathetic cluster of misconstrued information that they use to dispute my right to compensation.

The insurer has the right to do this. Worksafe loves them for it – in fact I believe they encourage it with incentives. (more…)

Own motion workers compensation investigation with the Victorian Ombudsman

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Workers compensation frustration again

The horrid treatment toward injured workers has to stop. Two neurostimulation devices in my body are not there for the fun of it. My treatment is not ‘irrelevant for my psychological condition‘.

And the fact this system provides no appropriate measures for me to be assessed fairly for neuropathic pain is appalling.

But I’m glad to hear there is an Own Motion investigation with the Victorian Ombudsman (twitter:@VicOmbudsman).

For those fortunate enough not to encounter this monstrous system, imagine you have a health issue and you are forced to visit a specialist who was unqualified to assess you properly. You wouldn’t go right? (more…)

This injured worker is about to burst

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Art & Chronic Pain - A Self Portrait

(Image from my book, Art & Chronic pain – A Self Portrait)

I’m going to erupt!

I feel I’ve been left without any avenue to vent the poor treatment I’ve experienced as an injured worker. I can’t make it any simpler :

I had a work accident and after declaring I had a p/t work capacity, I’m now left with $0.

That’s $0.

  • $0 financial help for any future treatment (currently undergoing thousands worth)
  • $0 wage top up
  • $0 superannuation
  • 0% return to work training or assistance
  • 0% guidance, and
  • 0° (except for this blog) to reasonably seek the promised help that I personally paid a 100% premium for in Victoria.

Wait, I have more to vent and please stay with me because you’re my only avenue remember? (more…)

Injured workers rising above

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(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.

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(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.

Abstract

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

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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

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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

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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

Author:

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

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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.

Putting pain management in the hands of the patient

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