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Permission granted and now it’s back to reality!

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Boxing Day Self Portrait For Theo

Or is it possible I never really left my reality? As if anyone can leave chronic pain behind and really have time off!

Sensing the cynical? I best write this post two ways. Technically, the permission ends on Thursday night when we head back to Melbourne so I’m going to post my brain’s two conflicting versions:

1. Crap thinking out-of-the-way first version

Pulling yourself out of life isn’t easy and especially if you’re forced to do it. I was forced and that force keeps on damn well forcing. It brought Theo and I to Tasmania for a four-month ‘sabbatical’ with the topic of research being chronic pain and how to live with it. Truth is, the topic has more likely been what the hell do we do now? It was also meant to somehow help me rid some more pain and pace up my driving, exercise and some daily chores. I was unsuccessful. (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…)

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…)

Yet Another Comedy of Errors, Acts I & II

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Prologue:

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

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ConciliationMail-03

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!

Author:

(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,
and,
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…)

Formal Complaint to WorkSafe Victoria

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21st May, WorkSafe’s Andrew calls

My long wait was over, or so I thought, when on 21st May I received a call from a Service Review Analyst working with WorkSafe’s Capability & Service Division.

Yes, it did seem that they had “escalated” my complaint, as promised, and I would at last be given some answers. But my hopes were soon dashed as the guy on the other end of the line tried to explain to me why it was taking so long to deal with my complaint. He told me that WorkSafe was having to seek further information as to whether I was making an additional complaint or was merely hoping for a response to my original one. I made it clear that I was still awaiting a definite response to my original complaint. Having then established that we were both on the same page, the caller said that he was in fact ringing to apologize to me for the delay. No reason for this was given.

When I inquired how he would feel if he was in my situation, he once again apologised to me.

As you might have gathered by now, I found this phone call to have been awkward, uncoordinated, empty and senseless.  It was patently obvious that he had not looked all that deeply (if at all) into my complaint.

Was he inexperienced and being thrown in at the deep end by his manager?  Or had he been told to play “dumb”? I wondered whether WorkSafe really does have a mechanism in place to investigate legitimate complaints! Perhaps their lack of response serves as a tactic to deter most people from pursuing answers to their complaints.

But once more I find myself waiting with “bated breath and whisp’ring humbleness” for some honest answers. Honest answers and compensation payments that I believe are fully justified.

20th May, Soula follows up:

Hi Liz,

Can you give me the ‘relevant person’s’ name and direct contact please? I’m beginning to think they don’t exist. It really shouldn’t take this long.

13th May, from WorkSafe’s, Lizabelle

Hi Soula,

Thanks for your further email.

Please be advised that I have referred your email to the relevant person looking into your complaint for his information and response.

Should you have any further queries…Blah blah

12th May, Soula follows up:

Hello Anthony,

Are you able to follow the ‘escalation’ of my enquiry. I feel it may have been lost on the way…

May I remind you the original enquiry was made on April 4th. Pretty poor on WorkSafe’s behalf I feel.

Soula Mantalvanos

24th April, Soula looks into WorkSafe’s complaint procedure

I was wondering who the Service Improvement Division were after my reply from WorkSafe. I found a WorkSafe Victoria Complaints Handling Policy pdf. I nearly threw up reading this as this is certainly NOT what I’ve experienced in my seven years as an injured worker (or self employer). In fact I can’t believe the words ‘caring’ and ’empathy’ are even used and ‘We live up to our promises’ isn’t true, WorkCover isn’t ‘Quality Income Protection’.

Grab yourselves a bucket injured workers, download the pdf or read my favorite worst bit:

Complaints handling at WorkSafe

WorkSafe Victoria (WorkSafe) is committed to actively seeking client and stakeholder feedback. Complaints about WorkSafe, our authorised Agents or service providers are an important aspect of client feedback. We value this feedback and see it as an opportunity to improve our service.

WorkSafe has developed complaints handling processes which comply with the Australian Standards and Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) policy statement and encourages anyone who has contact with WorkSafe to provide feedback. There is no fee associated with providing feedback or having a complaint investigated.

WorkSafe will consider all feedback in a manner that is fair both to the complainant and to the party being complained about and which equally values all views.

WorkSafe will manage complaints consistently with its corporate values of being constructive, accountable, transparent, effective and caring.
Constructive
We are constructive in the way we provide information, advice and service.
Accountable
We are accountable for what we do and what we say. We live up to our promises.
Transparent
We work in a transparent way in an environment which is open and honest.
Effective
We are effective by working collaboratively to deliver high quality services.
Caring
We demonstrate care by showing empathy in our dealings with everyone we work with.

7th April reply from WorkSafe’s Anthony:

Good afternoon Soula

Thank you for your email enquiry

Please note that the complaint has been escalated to our service improvement division to manage this query.  They will contact you in relation to this matter

Should you have any further queries or issues, feel free to contact the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 or 03 9641 1444 or visit us on the web at http://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au.

Advisory Service information and advice is prepared in the context of the information you have provided in your email.  Whilst care has been taken to provide accurate information and advice, the Advisory Service has not endeavoured to advise on all possible contingencies and therefore not intended for other situations or circumstances, as this may affect this advice.

Prior to acting upon any information or advice offered by the Advisory Service, you will need to consider your individual circumstances to determine the application of the advice to any additional statutory obligation or duty relevant to your query.

Email Address WorksafeTo WorkSafe Victoria,

I’d like to formally report the lack of support, frustration, and stress I am experiencing with my claim with (enter WorkSafe Agent name) and within the WorkCover system. I have also been publicising my frustrations as I’m sure your social media management team are aware of but thought to give WorkSafe Vic the opportunity, once again, to handle my issue if I approached via your preferred methods. Having stated this, my previous complaints seem to have been lost to this address, I hope this one doesn’t have the same fate.

Here are my issues: (more…)

Dear WorkSafe Victoria

Author:

Letter To WorkSafe VictoriaDear WorkSafe Victoria,

We have been acquainted now for over seven years, and to commemorate this occasion the least I could do was to pen you a few heart-felt words.

Today I came across WorkSafe’s Clinical Framework For the Delivery of Health Services and I would like you to know that it made so much sense to me from my perspective as an injured worker. I was very impressed reading through it. It ticked all the boxes and its approach (Purpose) was exactly what I had hoped to experience in my own chronic pain journey under your watchful eye. The guiding principles caught my attention:

  • Measurement and demonstration of the effectiveness of treatment
  • Adoption of a biopsychosocial approach
  • Empowering the injured person to manage their injury
  • Implementing goals focused on optimising function, participation and return to work
  • Base treatment on best available research evidence (more…)

Will I live to regret it?

Author:

April 2, 2014 update:

(after my WorkSafe Agent reply)

I’ll get my cheese @WorkSafe_Vic…

Idiot!

Have you had that moment? Do you remember promising yourself you’d always try your best in life and remain as honest as you can? But then down the track something happens and you find yourself asking, ‘why did I have to do rock the boat?’

Often I wonder how much easier life might be if I didn’t try so hard, if I gave in a little and didn’t aspire for the best I could possibly be. This positive attitude has occasionally got me into nothing but trouble. Sure, I have a clear conscious, but I’ve had to endure more stress, financial loss, and much more pain. No guesses, I’m talking about the Victorian WorkCover system again.

After my initial battle in 2009 with my WorkSafe Agent where I was first assessed by a Medical Panel, I was found to have no working capacity indefinitely, which meant three quarters of my pre-injury weekly wage was certified until the end, of what was projected to be, my working life. But, with diagnosis and great treatment (none of which has stemmed from the WorkCover system), I have improved. After acquiring a regular monthly design job that covers the wages of our full-time designer presented itself and being desperate to revisit our old life of working together, Theo (my husband) and I considered re-establishing our design studio, Origin of Image. We wanted to celebrate our life together, I wished for some resemblance to the ‘working human being’ I was, I craved the challenge of a client brief and most of all I desperately wanted to remove myself from being part of a poisonous system, at least when seen from the viewpoint of an injured worker.

I proceeded in a most unrealistic way to convince myself that I had a working capacity. I got excited at being able again to think for more than 10 minutes, I got excited at not having to sleep throughout every day in order to function, I got excited when finding that I could conceptualise again.

Was I daft? (more…)

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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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