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 It managed to ‘acknowledge’, ‘agree’, ‘assure’ and confirm all the points relating to this outdated system that I initially made in my letter.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of the WorkSafe staff and all related employees and practitioners who’s reports are so loyal and discerning of these out-of-date AMA4 guidelines (with pain chapter removed), and The Accident Compensation Act 1987.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…!

Well thank you WorkSafe for the ‘quality‘ protection you promise. And Heidi just one question, would this letter have been acceptable for you if you were in my shoes?

222 Exhibition Street Melbourne VIC 3000
GPO Box 4306 Melbourne VIC 3001
Tell 03 96411555 Fax/ 03 96411222

3 July 2013                                                                                               Complaint Reference : 71701
Ms Soula Mantalvanos

Dear Ms Mantalvanos

Thank you for your email dated 6 June 2013 to the WorkSafe Advisory Service outlining your queries and concerns about the assessment and compensation for work-related injuries.

In particular, I note your direct questions regarding Safe Work Australia’s National Workers’ Compensation Action Plan, as well as your specific reflection on those injuries resulting in chronic pain and the observation that conditions such as Pudendal Neuralgia are not adequately understood or assessed by medical  practitioners available to the Victorian workers compensation scheme as accredited Independent Impairment Assessors.

Your willingness to share your clinical journey of what I understand to be a very complex injury on your website is also acknowledged.

Safe Work Australia

Safe Work Australia is a national policy body, not a regulator of workers compensation.  lt is an organisation separate to that of WorkSafe Victoria.

Safe Work Australia works with the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to improve work health and safety and workers’ compensation arrangements. The Commonwealth, States and Territories have responsibility for regulating and enforcing work health and safety laws, and administering workers’ compensation legislation in their own jurisdictions.

In 2010 Safe Work Australia Strategic Issues Group (SIG) developed the National Workers’ Compensation Action Plan 2010 – 2013, which included· a proposal to investigate and report on options for nationally consistent arrangements for the assessment of permanent impairment.

As Safe Work Australia leads the development of the proposed Action Plan, it is suggested that for information on the status of the plan, you may wish to contact Safe Work Australia on info@safeworkaustralia.gov.au or call 1300 551832.

Impairment Assessment in Victoria

The Accident Compensation Act 1987 (the Act)  instructs how permanent impairment resulting from injuries sustained in the workplace are assessed and compensated for workers in Victoria.

The Act  requires assessments of physical injuries to be made in accordance with the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, Fourth  Edition (AMA4 Guides, the Guides) The Act also instructs where exclusions apply.  In confirmation of your comments, in Victoria, the chapter in relation to the assessment of pain under the AMA4 Guides is currently excluded by law.  In general, the Guides considers an allowance for pain is reflected in the descriptors already assigned under the existing specific body system assessment methodologies, and a separate assessment would result in a duplicate consideration of the one symptom.

The Act also requires assessments to be conducted by medical practitioners who are accredited as Independent Impairment Assessors by their successful completion of the Impairment Assessment Training Course as approved by the Minister for WorkCover and provided by the AMA Victoria. Of note, is the requirement that these practitioners are also independent of an injured worker’s treatment or medico-legal service provision.

Your assessments have been provided by doctors who have been selected appropriately to the clinical nature of your injury as well as meeting the accreditations and independence required by law.

I acknowledge your comments in preference of your treating practitioners’ services as assessors.

The AMA4 Guides require that any assessment of  impairment must include the full and complete review of all background medical information relevant to the injury; clinical opinion, diagnostic and investigation information, treatment and rehabilitation details as provided by involved clinical treatment providers. While independence has been properly maintained throughout your claim for the selection of medical practitioners for impairment and Medical Panel assessments, please be assured the assessments provided placed significant importance on your primary treatment providers’ reports as received as part of the impairment assessment and Medical Panel referral.

I would agree that each assessor acknowledged the complexity of your injury and the clinical journey you have experienced.

Thank you for your balanced reflection on the challenges faced by the assessors.

Thank you for raising your concerns directly with WorkSafe Victoria.  I hope that  this information has been of assistance, but if you have any further queries please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

Yours sincerely

Heidi Fitzgibbon
Impairment Benefit Coordinator Agent Management Division Phone: 96411211
Email: Heidi_Fitzgibbon@worksafe.vic.gov.au

For anyone wanting to help change this system, please sign the current petition here and/or pledge here.