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A horrid equation: Medical + Legal = Medical Panels

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From where I’m standing, you could never believe our Government has set up a system to support injured workers.

This very system that was established (apparently) for the injured worker is very well calculated and excruciating to navigate and whilst navigating it, the injured worker usually remains unfed and untreated.

My complete process from application to outcome and reimbursement of weekly payments (if I ‘win’) could go on almost a year. And there was a year before that when the system threw me into a disillusioned hole when it pulled the rug from under me after I declared a part time work capacity.

If you’re an injured worker reading this – don’t ever declare a part time capacity until you’re sure you have a solid one.

Whichever way you look at the situation for injured workers, the equation always adds up to unnecessary, unfair and insensitive treatment.

While I wait for the Medical Panels to send me their decision, their faces, movements, questions and gestures swirl around my head and I try desperately to guess the outcome.

Even at 2am, I fail to guess. It should be simple to go to an appointment and explain your personal health status shouldn’t it? It’s simple for my pain team.

However it isn’t simple for the Medical Panel because it’s not an appointment, it’s an assessment – they’re not the same. From my experience, this assessment is a full blown investigation and that so severely changes the experience… and my heart rate. I doubt I need to state that this scenario changes my pain levels but if I do, head back to page 1 of this website and start reading again. Continue Reading

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? Continue Reading

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. Continue Reading

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. Continue Reading

A new workers compensation programme in South Australia

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

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

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

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

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

Craig’s Table

(excerpt by Rosemary)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet Another Comedy of Errors, Acts I & II

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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. Continue Reading

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 Continue Reading

Will I live to regret it?

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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? Continue Reading

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. Continue Reading

Off to the Convenor of Medical Panels with my invisible pain

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You know that feeling before something great is going to happen, like just arriving at the airport and knowing you’re off on a great holiday? It’s a great feeling isn’t it? Makes your insides really happy, the body and mind get a lift, and troubles seem to slide away, everything feels like it’s going to be alright. Well, I couldn’t feel more the opposite right now. I have an appointment with the Convenor of Medical Panels on Tuesday and I’m feeling more like I’m facing a funeral.

Who are the Convenor of Medical Panels for those lucky enough not to have had any experience with them? I’ll just pop in their website information as they explain it best:

Medical Panels are constituted pursuant to the Accident Compensation Act 1985 and the Wrongs Act 1958.
A Medical Panel may be asked to provide an Opinion where there is disagreement or uncertainty about aspects of a WorkCover related injury or medical condition.
A Medical Panel may be asked to provide a Determination where there is disagreement or uncertainty about the degree of impairment resulting from an alleged Wrongs Act injury.
A Medical Panel Opinion or Determination on a medical question must be accepted as final and conclusive.

If you’re an injured worker, you won’t need to read on as you’ve either experienced the Panels yourself, or after reading the above lines you’ll know exactly what I’m about to say. For those who are not injured workers and want to understand your injured worker friend, read on. And if you are a Panels assessor*, please, consider the following and what injured workers have to endure when they face you.

Following, are my thoughts and the questions that will swivel around my brain, down my spine and burn my pelvis until this appointment is over and the final decision is mailed to me. Continue Reading

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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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