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Dear WorkSafe Victoria

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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…)

Reply to my ‘Fair Assessment for Compensation letter’

Author:

Fair Assessment LetterAfter speaking with Kris Vanston I now know that injured workers do have the Victorian Ombudsman to turn too for unfairness issues within the WorkCover system.

I had my doubts about contesting my impairment score of 0% (that was deemed permanent I might add), as I am very well aware and have ranted aplenty about Chronic Pain NOT being acknowledged in the guidelines that are used to assess injured workers. That means there is Australian legislation (I’ll rephrase; it is legal) for WorkSafe practitioners to ignore Chronic pain, thus Pudendal Neuralgia. No where within the system will any WorkCover practitioner be able to assess an injured worker’s Chronic pain. I’m experiencing the result of this, I’ve been living this ignorance since March 2007.

I wrote a letter that was ignored for a few months by our WorkCover Minister, WorkSafe and SafeWork Australia. The Victorian Ombudsman employee informed me not to use the ‘info’ email address but rather the ‘enquiries’ one when I’m writing to WorkSafe. Ridiculous but he was right and I eventually received a response.

(Enter sarcasm) I now feel completely healed and completely relieved with the empty response I received. It managed to ‘acknowledge’, ‘agree’, ‘assure’ and confirm all the points relating to this outdated system that I initially made in my letter. I’m also more at ease knowing everyone who assessed me ignored all my symptoms and inabilities and that was legal. I’m also proud of the staff at WorkSafe who are happy to abide by ignorant and narrow-minded measures that would also apply to them in the event they injured themselves at work. Above all, I’m in awe of the WorkSafe staff and all related employees and practitioners who’s reports are so loyal and discerning of these out-of-date AMA4 guidelines (with pain chapter removed), and The Accident Compensation Act 1987.

This template response clearly indicated to me that anyone with chronic pain and with any of the following symptoms/limitations, as a result of a workplace accident will not get compensation: affected toilet function, spasms where you really don’t want them, sensory pain (in my case throughout the pelvis), toothachey nerve pain, weakening legs, burning, zinging, if you have limited sitting ability, if you are limited in walking, standing, working, lifting, bending, exercising, if you have an implant as a result of pain (or even if you need one for that matter), if you rely on daily help, if you can’t drive, shop, sit and type this damn email in one hit etc etc…! (more…)

The Scheme Project

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The Scheme Project

I met with Kris Vanston yesterday after making my pledge to The Scheme Project last week and an exchange of some cyber chit-chat. We realised we had something in common, we want to better the Australian WorkCover system.

What is The Scheme?

(Sound file and excerpt from www.thescheme.com.au)

The Scheme Thumb
We’ve all heard the sensationalist news reports, however the true statistics behind injured workers are alarming; less than 0.5% of injured workers are the ‘fraudsters’ you might see on TV (Victorian Ombudsman’s report 2011), yet most injured workers are spied on by private detectives (yes, really), they’re made out to be guilty until proven innocent, each year costing taxpayers over $14 million in Victoria alone. It seems everyone involved in the system is growing tired of it’s inefficiencies, ultimately though, it’s the injured workers that gets left behind. Insurance companies are delaying and denying claims that should be processed because they can make a profit from it. Recently, CGU (one of WorkCover’s insurers), had locked up over 10,000 files in a hidden cupboard and manipulated invoices which made the company $2.5 million in profits. Now you have to ask yourself. How much more of this behaviour is not being reported? How much information is so incriminating to bodies such as WorkSafe or insurance companies, that they are willing to pay to suppress it? We are here to find out! Sign our Petition below and have your voice heard! We thank you for your continued much needed support. (more…)

Subject: Fair Assessment for Compensation?

Author:

For those subscribed to this Fair Assessment For Compensation post, I have had a reply and it is posted here!

AN OPEN LETTER TO WORKSAFE AUSTRALIA

(CC’d The Hon Gordon Rich-Philips)

SUBJECT: FAIR ASSESSMENT FOR COMPENSATION?

My name is Soula Mantalvanos and I am an injured Australian worker ever since an unfortunate incident in March 2006 where the fitball I was sitting on burst and I fell on to concrete. I was diagnosed after 4.5 years, with a painful condition that is often misunderstood; it is Pudendal Neuralgia (specifically Pelvic Chronic Pain).

MedicalPanels

Obviously you will be able to imagine the difficulties I have had in the WorkCover system with such an injury. Six years down the track, at the age of 43, I am left without weekly payments and an impairment score of 0%. I seriously question whether I’ve ever been assessed fairly.

In the Preamble of the National Workers’ Compensation Action Plan 2010-2013, a paragraph (b) recommends providing “fair” compensation for work-related injury, illness and death. As far as I can ascertain, “fair” means “marked by impartiality and honesty, as well as free from self-interest, prejudice, or favouritism.” Does this definition coincide with that intended by WorkSafe Australia?

Elsewhere the document endorses “Engagement with members’ stakeholder networks to inform, consult, involve and collaborate with them and report back outcomes to SIG-Workers’ Compensation.”

Can you please inform me as to who are the stakeholders representing the interests of injured workers such as me? Perhaps PainAustralia? Perhaps Consumer Health Forum. Have they been consulted? If not, is there any reason for this?

I would also like to point out that many injured workers might be in the same position of being denied a “fair” assessment by virtue of the unavailability of a “Pain Impairment Rating Scale” similar to the PIRS (Psychiatric Impairment Rating Scale) which is currently in use.
I have found in my six years of experiencing pain that many of the independent medical practitioners being used for impairment assessment have retired from active clinical practice and their clinical skills are not up-to-date; thus none have been able to diagnose, assess or rate/score me accurately.

Ideally, I believe, assessment should have been carried out by my own independent medical practitioners who are engaged in active clinical practice within the field of my medical condition, Pudendal Neuralgia. These practitioners are up-to-date with diagnosis and clinical assessment techniques. These are the people that have made a difference to my pain and these are the practitioners/specialists who have made an accurate diagnosis and instituted proper treatment, and who best have the chance to help me get back to work.

My final question for the SIG-Workers’ Compensation: The principle of fairness mandates that people in chronic pain be assessed for monetary compensation under a similar impairment rating scale to those with psychological and psychiatric conditions. Have I been assessed in this manner? I believe I have not.

To conclude I would like to add that during my Impairment Assessment, I had a Neurologist, Orthopedic Surgeon and Occupational Physician, all male, examine me. They were thorough in measuring my implant scar and the Orthopedic Surgeon showed his knowledge by asking the Neurologist if he was going to do the ‘Perineal’ test (thankfully the answer was ‘no’). Taking this into account and them pricking me up and down with no response, and wishing me ‘a miracle’ on the way out I gathered these specialists did have some understanding of my issue. However, I feel the independent medical examiners in my case were embarrassed by their inability to perform a fair assessment of the extent of my impairment, there being no comparable rating scale to the PIRS!

I document my story via a website. Please note this letter and your response will be posted for public view on www.pudendalnerve.com.au and shared via social media.

Soula Mantalvanos

June8-10_2007SelfPortraitBrace_sm

pudendalnerve.com.au

Increasing employment opportunities for people with disability

Author:
Australian Government Logo

Australian Government website header

Thank you Minister Shorten and thank you too to my wonderful employer for changing their setup to accommodate me and my health issue. Would you employ someone with a disability? Do you have ideas for employers so that they can employ people with disabilities? Minister Shorten wants to hear from you…

Excerpt from the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations webpage. Please read and submit your thoughts.

Increasing employment opportunities for people with disability

Minister Shorten seeks proposals on ways to boost employment participation for people with disability, discussion paper seeking public views on how best to achieve reform. How to provide a submission.

The Australian Government is committed to creating lasting opportunities for employment for people with disability.

To ensure that the most vulnerable Australians are able to find a job, earn a wage, enjoy the dignity of work and prosper from satisfying and rewarding careers, a consultation process has been launched to seek proposals on how best to boost employment participation for people with disability. The discussion paper, Improving Employment Participation of People with Disability, seeks public views on how to best achieve reform, including:

  • how to promote and improve equality for people with disability in employment and in the workplace
  • how to support employers to identify and remove barriers to full and equal participation of people with disability
  • how to promote the removal of all forms of discrimination on the basis of a persons’ disability
  • how to improve workplace consultation between employers and employees on issues concerning people with disability in the workplace
  • how to improve the productivity and competitiveness of Australian business through the advancement of people with disability in the workplace.

The Government would like to hear from all interested parties, including:

  • people with disability, their families, carers and community representatives
  • employers and employer representatives
  • current Employment Service Providers
  • state and local governments
  • unions and other employee representative groups

Providing proposals (submissions)

It is preferred that submissions be sent by email (Word or RFT format), they can also be sent via post.

Email submission to: dmh@deewr.gov.au

Post submission to:
Director
Disability and Mental Health Policy
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
Location: MC50 Level 5
GPO Box 9880
CANBERRA ACT 2601

Submissions will close at 5pm (EST) 15 February 2013.

Posted submissions must be postmarked before 12 February 2013 to be accepted. You will receive confirmation from the department that your submission has been received.

For further information contact dmh@deewr.gov.au

About submissions

Written submissions will be treated as public documents, unless you clearly mark on your submission that you do not want this to occur. Automatically generated confidentiality statements in emails are not enough to note your intention that your submission should remain confidential. Submissions may be published in full on this website, including any of your personal information provided. Personal information about third parties will be removed from submissions before they are published, unless consent from those parties has been provided. A request made under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) for access to a submission marked confidential will be determined in accordance with the FOI Act.

Official page, read more…

 

 

Expired and fallen through the cracks

Author:

Milk with Expiration date: 1990

For over a year now, I’ve been seeking an employee in the WorkCover system who has a thorough understanding of my case and not one that walked into a mountain of papers new to his/her job (and would be walking out again in just a few weeks). After 5.5 years in this WorkCover system I’ve found it extremely difficult to find anyone who can speak openly and be frank with me and who I feel understands me or my injury. It’s no surprise really, when the Hon Gordon-Rich Philips chooses not to promote clearly he also manages WorkCover amongst his vast portfolio . I’m left to thinking this is the land of wusses!

After a few battles regarding my massage treatments, peripheral stimulation implant and finally receiving a letter form my WorkSafe agent stating I would no longer be receiving medical reimbursements/support, I began a hunt for a deserving explanation.

For a second time, I wrote to the Hon Gordon-Rich Philips, but this time approaching him before beginning a dispute with the ACCS. I went off the Hon’s first letter of reply where he states the following: As this matter is currently going through the dispute resolution process provided by the Act, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the specifics of your claim.

Almost two months later, I received a reply. It came with one very inaccurate detail, a few template sentences but most importantly a contact. I was impressed! The Hon states I withdrew my application for dispute of my medical expenses but the withdrawn dispute was for my implant reimbursement. I didn’t complain about the Hon muddling up the details, mine is a huge case and the error does clarify how confusing, messy and complicated this system is. Even the Minister and his associates get the details wrong. Might also be hint of disorganisation from the coming-and-going of case managers and let’s not forget the complexities of the system… what are you going to do with an injured worker who’s injury isn’t stated in the guidelines?

But back to my main point, the answer I was seeking. I called the contact the Hon advised and it led to a conversation with my WorkSafe Agent’s Injury Management Advisor (IMA) and for once, I seemed to be having an open and honest conversation with a WorkSafe Agent employee. It’s hard to say it was honest because this system has taught me not to trust anyone, sadly. It felt like a great relief to be speaking to an educated, intelligent, experienced and capable person (a Psych who is continuously studying the National WorkCover systems). I didn’t get invalid and poor excuses or worse still, lies. Every point I made was dealt with and the conversation was about me, my case and my specific issues. I was bewildered when the IMA responded with, “I know, I know you’ve done… I know you’ve seen… I know Dr so-and-so” and the grand finale was that the IMA was going to answer why my medical expenses support had ceased?

The following day, yes, the following day, I had my answer (and another very civilised conversation). In two phone calls my frustration was greatly reduced, I had someone tell me they understood how much the system has frustrated me, how much the system frustrates many injured workers, I had been told I was doing all the right things, and she understood I was not being commended for it, the conversation went something like this:

  • You’re right, your issue is not in the AMA guidelines and I spoke to the impairment doctors about this and they confirmed it true. I asked if you were to be assessed under the guidelines four and five would it be better but they don’t include your issue either
  • This is a system and like any other it can’t cater to everyone
  • Yes it can get better, we have a long way to go but it is a better WorkCover system in Victoria. The Victorian system doesn’t operate from taxpayers money but rather dips into the premiums companies/businesses pay (with larger organisation may make contributions of millions per year)
  • WorkCover was initially set up for workers, the system is not like other insurance companies, it must abide and is bound by Parliamentary laws
  • WorkSafe Agents don’t have their own doctors/examiners, these are independent doctors that choose to work for the agent (yes they choose to assess injured workers with limited guidelines, this is legal!!)
  • WorkSafe Agents are bound by  Parliamentary laws (not a set of their own)

And as for my answer:

  • Each injury/claim is allocated an amount and your injury has reached the end of its allocated funds
  • I know it’s frustrating, doing all the right things but you fall between the cracks
  • You could take the matter to Court but of course the Court functions under Parliamentary rules and follows the AMA guidelines

So in summary? For the last year I have had two attempts at conciliation, called, emailed and spoken to many incapable people, written to the Minister twice, stressed and been frustrated when all that trouble could have been saved with one phone call. The difficulties I have are mostly explained with the fact my injury isn’t acknowledged within the WorkCover system. This knowledge also explains why my horrible condition measured 0% at my impairment assessment.

I promised myself I wouldn’t swear on my blog but honestly how f*****g hard was it for someone with some b***s to speak to me in the first place?

I didn’t win anything, nor will part of my medical expenses be reimbursed (except my GP visits for capacity reports) but I know now not to bother with court, and I don’t have that torment inside that some incapable person is making excuses in mumbo jumbo lingo to me. I have my answer and more peace than rage. I’ve done my bit, and can now go back to focusing on myself and with closure perhaps get a little bit more pain relief.

I’m left wondering about the doctors who sign up for this system though, who assess injured workers with out of date and limiting guidelines. Worst of all I can’t believe our Government passes such laws. They created a system for workers (IMA certified comment) and chose to do it this way. Sure there have been some great amendments but wouldn’t it be more beneficial for everyone if the guidelines were updated… in the last 20 years!?

The Hon thanked me in his letter for bringing my matter to his attention but I was more looking for ‘We’re working on this, I know the guidelines are 20 years old we are trying, There were discussions about WorkCover..’ and suggestions where an injured worker can get answers, a little less tragically than I had to. I understand this is a tough portfolio but what’s tougher is being injured, unable to work quite possibly for the rest of your life and having a system that is not only limiting but also adds to your pain, adds obstacles in your attempts to cope and deal with your injury.

Do I need to point out it’s important for injured workers to communicate their issues with the Hon Gordon Rich-Phillips and that he is approachable? I’m not sure it’s worth hounding your insurer or WorkSafe.

Speak up people!!!! It’s easy in this day of technology. The Hon’s details are:
gordon.rich-phillips@parliament.vic.gov.au
www.rich-phillips.com.au
www.facebook.com/gordonrichphillips
twitter.com/#!/RichPhillipsMLC

Of course I had to thank the Hon Gordon Rich-Phillips and make sure he understood my problem afterall I was excited, I had just found out what it was!

Subject: thank you
Date: 20 June 2012 5:28:26 PM AEST
To: gordon.rich-phillips@parliament.vic.gov.au

Dear Hon Gordon Rich-Phillips,

I wanted to thank you for replying to my letter of frustration and for referring me to (IMA details).

After a lengthy, open and honest conversation with (IMA), who was well aware of my case and previous frustrations, I finally received a clear understanding and an answer to the snap ending of my medical expenses support and why my stimulation device could not be funded.

You thanked me in your letter for bringing the matter to your attention. I still want to make sure my issues are clearly understood in the event a change can be made as obviously the lack of support is very unhelpful for an injured worker with an issue such as mine. The problems I am experiencing with my support are completely due to the fact that my injury is not specified in the AMA guidelines and therefore can’t be acknowledged anywhere by anyone in the WorkCover system (or by associated practitioners). This is also how my horrendous injury is given a 0% impairment score.

It’s a little steep to accept this when you’re living in Australia but I’m hoping somewhere at some point this will be tackled in Parliament for injured workers who unfortunately will follow and suffer the same neuropathic injuries.

Can you please just imagine having a health issue and visiting a Doctor whose experience and knowledge was limited to the 1990’s? I expect you simply wouldn’t go.

If there is any chance of helping, please do. Once again I will document this information on my blog in hope of helping other injured Australians with similar issues. Please advise me if you prefer this information not to be publicised (obviously the Insurer’s name will not be mentioned).

Kind Regards
Soula Mantalvanos

Thanks Erin Brockovich for supporting injured workers

Author:

Erin Brockovich and Work Cover Victim

It’s starting to happen, there’s a little stir… injured workers are speaking up. And they’re getting noticed.

Thank you to the brilliant WorkCoverVictim (and my cyber friend – well how else to injured workers meet!?), and your team for providing incredible support to injured workers through your brilliant website. You deserve your visit from THE Erin Brockovich.

(more…)

Published and about to be heard!

Author:

Thank you Graphis, The International Journal
of Visual Communication, for publishing my political poster.

Australia’s WorkSafe system needs a serious update for the sake of Employers, Workers and Tax Payers.
I’m hoping to get enough views to be published in the Graphis Annual and send a personally signed copy to our WorkSafe Minister.

Hit the link below to support me.
Graphis / Public Viewing | Social/Political Posters

WorkSafe's Birdcage System

Victorian Government: Don’t raid WorkSafe’s surplus

Author:

Victorian Government: Don’t raid WorkSafe’s surplus

Why This Is Important

The WorkSafe surplus is under threat from the Victorian Government. Premier Ted Baillieu wants to rip out $471.5 million over four years from the WorkCover Authority, known as WorkSafe, so he can balance the State Budget.
WorkSafe administers WorkCover for Victorian workers. A reduction in funds is bad for workers and bad for Victoria. This is an unprecedented move. The WorkSafe surplus should be used to ensure our workplaces are safe, injured workers are compensated fairly, and that employers’ premiums are as low as possible.

The WorkSafe surplus is not there to be plundered by a Government that is having trouble balancing its budget, it is there to make our workplaces safe and fairly compensate workers if there are injured.
Maurice Blackburn has been looking out for the best interests of injured workers for more than 90 years. We’ve started this petition to send a strong message to the Victorian Government: don’t raid the WorkSafe surplus.

Read more, sign the petition: www.change.org

I signed it:

I can’t believe Ted Baillieu found one more way to make the system worse than it already is! How about ‘ripping’ out shonky investigations and shonky Independent Medical Examiners, you’d gain more than 471.5 million!

Funniest of all…

Author:

…is that most employees and associates (practitioners included) I’ve met through the WorkCover system have a rude assuming attitude. They never treat me like I want my life back, that I want to be healthy, working and able again. I truly think WorkSafe agents are convinced this payroll is actually attractive (that’s my favorite!), that their practitioners (who agree to consult without having to advise patients at the end of a visit) are better for me than my own. They never stop to think that an injured worker hates to have to tell their friends and family they are relying on the system’s ‘support’, that I might be in pain all day every day, they never speak to me like I’m a human being. And, they keep insisting that there are many Australian workers that want to be ‘on the system‘, or as put especially for me, ‘how many Australian’s want to shut their businesses down and live off the Government’s money‘.

I wonder where this comes from, are the WorkSafe agent employees trained to think that anyone on their payroll is dodgy? It certainly might explain why no one is compassionate, no one is empathetic, no one seems to understand, no one can answer a question appropriately, no one can make things happen for you, no one is interested (staff are here today gone tomorrow), all you get is lies, lies, lies or no answer, irrelevant treatment and judgement.

Are there Australian workers out there really happy to be home and on the Government payroll? If so, how many, and can we have these stats (actually everyone ‘on the system’ must be assumed shonky, otherwise our doctor’s opinions would be valid).

My, not-so-funny point is, I’m appalled that the system treats me this way and my case can’t be addressed appropriately and relative to my endless efforts to restore my health and get back to work. Rather, it seems to aim to make it difficult so that I’m pushed to give up my entitlements, or sadly, and more damaging still, remain wrapped up in the endless battles for the support I’m entitled too.

Not so funny really…

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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.

Be prepared at your next appointment, subscribe to {Pain}Train

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