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The Medical Panels assessment of my work capacity 2014

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Medical Panel Opinion CoverLetterI know many of you have been waiting for this post. I have been waiting to post it myself but one guess what was in my way? A response from my WorkSafe Agent… and I’m still waiting for it!

I received my Medical Panel’s opinion and they agreed with the capacity I had presented. I was honestly stunned. My opinion read:

Question 1. Whether the worker has a current work capacity and, because of the injury, is, and is likely to continue indefinitely to be incapable of undertaking –
(ii) further or additional employment or work ; or (ii) further or additional employment or work that would increase the worker’s current weekly earnings and,
Answer: (i) yes (ii) yes
Question 2. If not so incapable, what further or additional employment or work the worker capable of undertaking?
Answer: Not Applicable

Further to the report that followed bewildered me, tears streamed down my face. I actually didn’t want Theo to read it to me, I was too fearful I’d read another limiting opinion, like the previous one that has me bound to a ‘Chronic Pain Disorder’ that no one understands. Or, worse still, it was going to be like the Impairment Assessment where the Neurosurgeon on that panel wished me ‘a miracle’ on the way out whilst contributing to the decision of: ‘0% whole person impairment… The degree of impairment is permanent’.

Theo began… he read mostly accurate details that I had voiced to the Medical Panel, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

I heard this:

“She said that because she lives at her worksite she can work at her own pace, as she is able to. She said that on some days she can’t work because of pain, and on other days she is careful and she can work accordingly”

The exact truth… and then this:

“The worker said that she is unable to sit for long and focus, and she is regularly interrupted from her work by the pain. She said that she also has to heavily rely on her husband to do any of the physical side of her work, for example lifting books, getting the mail, and doing research that requires prolonged sitting. She said that if he was not present she would not be able to be productive at all.”

More truth!

“The worker said that she believes she has exhausted her treatment options and now she just has to “manage” her condition. She said that part of this management means that she is restricted to just two car trips per week, as a passenger, with limited social outings as well.”

This too, was what I told the Medical Panel… and it continued, closure and acknowledgment straight to my ears:

“The Panel also considered that the worker was a reliable historian and that it could rely on the history she provided, in conjunction with the other material in the referral, in order to formulate its conclusions.”

And in reference to the putrid surveillance that will never leave my head or allow me to exit my home without searching every car for a clown disguised as a human:

“The Panel viewed surveillance video prepared by (insert narrow-minded investigator’s company name here) investigations, and dated 24 February 2012.  The Panel noted the ‘Summary of Key Observations’ and noted that the worker was observed ‘taking her dog for a walk, collecting coffee from a cafe in the walking back home again, sitting at a cafe talking to an older couple and her boyfriend, eating a meal and laughing, was conversing with her companions and hugging a female’.

The worker did not wish to view the surveillance video together with the Panel, however she commented that, “I do socialise” … “I do pace myself’ … “I distract myself when I am socialising” … And stated … “I do look okay on the outside … my pain is invisible”.

The Panel considered that the actions depicted in this video were not inconsistent with the history provided by the worker, and the Panel’s own observations during the examination.”

But my favorite bit (and if you’re a close friend, perhaps sit down for this one):

“Ms Ann Florence Plante, senior physiotherapist, the Royal women’s hospital dated six of October 2011, and which attributed the workers symptoms to impingement of the pudendal nerves and treatment with neuromodulation. The Panel accepts the rationale for the implementation of a peripheral nerve stimulator, but considered that it was not possible to verify this diagnosis.”

I know it’s not a Federal standing diagnosis but it’s as good as this system allows its participating practitioners to get and I appreciate that they did their best. As one of the Panel specialists clarified (and yes, I had to bite my tongue not to reply the way I wanted to), ‘If you were in my practice we wouldn’t have to go about the assessment this way’.

So, why are there more words than there should be after the previous paragraph?

Because my WorkSafe Agent is challenging this binding decision. Yes, it’s been over 28 days, (many ignored emails and a phone call) and no notice or contact in regard to the owed payments, or a confirmation that my payments will be reinstated. Instead, what I finally heard was, ‘We have 60 days to challenge the decision and we’ll be in touch shortly’. And that was after I heard on the phone that my WorkSafe Agent found an issue with what my employer was paying me!!!!!

My fuming response:

“There’s nothing to challenge here. (WorkSafe Agent name) have no say in the rates my employer and I agree to. In fact (WorkSafe Agent name) should regard our situation with more respect. The … rates are my and my employer’s business. I’m extremely lucky to even be considered as an employee at Origin of Image. A small company can’t afford someone who lies down as she pleases, has time off as she pleases, works as she pleases, needs the director to lift heavy books and items to her, to make her 15 hours of work… are you guys serious? You’re challenging what?

Shameful, absolutely shameful.”

And so, I wait… unpaid, without my month’s of reimbursements, decision in hand, while my WorkSafe Agent looks for loopholes and clutches at straws offered by our Government legislation. Honestly…

And there’s more…

The day before I presented to the Panel, further information was supplied by my WorkSafe Agent’s ‘Technical Manager’ in the form of surveillance, one lot being laser printouts of my social media activity. This was an attempt to demonstrate I had ‘social media expert’ skills and ‘additional capacity’. I responded with this:

“I believe the social media issue was addressed during the Medical Panels with my following comments:
•    I used Dragon Dictate software,
•    I use multiple devices to post comments and socialise online,
•    My online community is my connection to the world, my voice and my legs,
•    I use software that allows me to distribute to multiple social networks and via multiple identities at the same time (takes seconds for one post to be distributed, this is called Hootsuite),

Regarding the specific LinkedIN information (WorkSafe Agent’s employee name) provided, the ability to post 15 comments over the course of one month and ‘like’ discussions is no indication of additional capacity or additional skills. This sort of activity can be done during my rest time even on the phone. It is also well within my current capacity limits if it were work related. The comments are not work related and I could not be a ‘social media expert’ that really is a whole other area/career that I don’t have experience in.  I seek much advice on social media from contacts such as Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson and John Quintner who have great knowledge of the Workers Compensation System and Chronic Pain. These connections have been a great strength and support to me.”

Not very savvy for a ‘Technical Manager’… but clearly it pays to act stupid. I won’t be intimidated.

To hold things up further, The WorkSafe Agent also couldn’t find the DVD of the 2012 surveillance, it took them over a month to present this information. But there was also more surveillance provided, surveillance kept from me even though I was led to believe it was all supplied to me last year when I asked for it. Yes, more surveillance with its origin yet to be explained to me, where did this come from, why wasn’t it provided to me when I asked for it?  This surveillance was provided to the Panel under the reasoning ‘for completeness’ (letter image below). This surveillance shows my documentation of pain on social media unlike the pages I was provided last year that showed none of that. Halleluja! Finally after all these years, an investigator has handed over some ‘real’ evidence, something that, even though short, portrays my living with pain. There obviously must be other pain documentation from my FaceBook pain page but in the usual carefully chosen style seen in this system, the surveillance chosen to present the Panel was from a holiday in 2012. I don’t mind, I’ve never told anyone I can’t go on a holiday.

I’ve now asked 4 times for the reason why I did not receive this information at the time I had asked and was ‘sent a hard copy in the mail’. Was it the investigators that didn’t hand it over, was it the WorkSafe Agent?

I could go on and on with the poor treatment, but let me wrap this very long post up with this; Worksafe there’s only one word that describes the way you allow your injured workers to be treated and the same word applies to the way you’ve set this Workers Compensation System up and that’s shameful.

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Feedback

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  • kerrie

    My sister was in the same car accident as me, her insurer sent a fake message supposedly from an old work colleague and friend (deceptively) to get her to come to the local shops and meet. Instead, from that day footage of surveillance arose with the fool following the footsteps of my uninjured sister who accompanied her! What idiots!!!

  • John Quintner

    Soula, I should make it clear that these are only my views. As you know, I have found it impossible to obtain any meaningful feed-back from those who are currently endeavouring to implement Australia-wide uniformity of workers’ compensation legislation and uniform methods of impairment assessment.

    To me, the bottom line is that success of the latter task is dependent upon the co-operation of the medical profession. But as we move into a new paradigm of pain theory and practice, cases such as yours illustrate why these systems need to accommodate progressive thinking and not remain mired in outmoded and unsupportable body/mind dualistic thinking.

  • John Quintner

    Soula, those who devised the system well knew what they were doing. They were told that the “pain” of another person cannot be assessed with any degree of accuracy. This is certainly true, if one is talking about “impairment”. They fell into a trap when they deemed psychological/psychiatric conditions to be assessable impairments. Evidently “pain” was considered to be neither of the body nor of the mind. But your case has shown that such a body/mind split is a highly artificial one and that you do have an assessable impairment.

    • Soula Mantalvanos

      Thank you for your support and clarity. It certainly doesn’t fix my issue or change the compensation problem for me but it’s really important to at least understand why my issue is so complex within this system. I think it’s also important that this information is public. There would be many injured workers in my shoes.

  • John Quintner

    Soula, your case may be a precedent in so far as the legislation is concerned. The callous attempt to disenfranchise those whose disability relates to persistent pain from receiving an impairment assessment beyond 0% has been exposed. As has been repeatedly pointed out, in contradistinction to persistent pain, those with disability arising from work-related psychological and psychiatric conditions can be assessed as having measurable impairments. That the methodology of impairment assessment used under these circumstances is based upon subjective criteria seems to have been countenanced by those who devised the system. The logical conclusion to be drawn is that WorkCover needs to draw up a “Pain Impairment Rating Scale” or something similar to this.

    • Soula Mantalvanos

      I’d love to speak to ‘those who devised the system’. I wonder about their education levels, what their interest levels for learning, growing, enhancing their skills are… I doubt their aim is very high. We are meant to live and learn, what I’m hearing loud and clear as I grow is that in every organisation / any sector, the key is listening to the consumer, the voice on the ground is the best way to make progress. WorkSafe conduct their surveys and make no changes. They keep patching their broken system. That won’t get anyone anywhere. In all honesty, I think the best thing to do is follow SA and pull the plug completely. Most injured workers would do so much better working themselves out. The system is a hold up, certainly for me it was. I haven’t seen one practitioner that helped me with the progress I made. Everyone that helped me find a diagnosis and treat my issue is not connected to this system. And it’s no coincidence that at my worst times I had ‘conciliation’ or an ‘Independent Medical Examination’, ‘terminated payments’, ‘impairment assessment’, ‘investigators’ at the doorstep, etc… I could go on…
      WorkSafe I hope your marketing team is reading this. I know they do, in fact it’s been a great resource to an employee’s wife… I won’t call that ‘audacity’, I’ll call it ‘my damn great website’ and keep my spirit that wishes this pain on no one, not even my enemies.

  • John Quintner

    Soula, on reflection I suggest that because your case has exposed a fundamental flaw in the WorkCover system of impairment assessment, orders have been issued from “on high” requesting the Technical Manager to put as many obstacles in your way as possible, so as to prevent you from receiving the just compensation for which you have been fighting for so long.

    • Soula Mantalvanos

      I’ve wondered lots of things John, I imagine what we call a ‘fundamental flaw’ for them translates into ‘fabulous loophole’ which they use to their advantage. I’m sure their commissions are based on keeping injured worker’s funds for as long as possible so they’ll do whatever it takes. And who of us, has the support and the strength when dealing with a health issue, to hold up and fight this kind of fight? WorkSafe know all this, they abuse the ill healht to make their profits.
      On another note, isn’t it astounding how many times I’ve used their name on my website and yet, their investigators have never found it!

  • John Quintner

    Soula, shameful may not be the most appropriate word. Others that come to mind include Kafkaesque, disgraceful, and mean-spirited. I wonder if Worksafe’s agent realized that his/her actions are being witnessed all over the world.

    • Soula Mantalvanos

      John given the investigators can’t follow the right car, find this website & hand over all the surveillance, and that the WorkSafe Agent’s Technical Manager openly checks out my linkedIN profile (thinking I can’t see that!), also thinks I can be ‘a social media expert’ after 10 comments and a few posts, AND knows nothing about apps and aids, I doubt very much they realise the coverage of social media. But they are also very highly protected by their employer too… and they definitely know that much!

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Definitions of pain

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 aggravated 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.

What is Neuropathic pain?
Neuropathic pain is the result of an injury or malfunction in the peripheral or central nervous system. The pain is often triggered by an injury, but this injury may or may not involve actual damage to the nervous system. More…

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