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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: Continue Reading

A new workers compensation programme in South Australia

Author:

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

Author:

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

Insurer acts under WorkCover’s big circus tent

Author:

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? Continue Reading

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. Continue Reading

Insult and Injury

Author:

How’s this for an opening line to my post:

Perspectives on workers compensation issues from Dr Peter Sharman – Occupational Physician.

Hopeful and hopeful is it not? Finally a practitioner putting it out there and standing up for a better Australian Worker’s compensation system.

It’ll be no surprise that Dr Sharman and I connected over a few tweets of frustration and WorkSafe/WorkCover hashtags. He’s been a fabulous support since, providing honest and open conversation about the primitive ways of the system, whilst expressing his frustration with not being able to help injured workers more. Well, now he is really helping injured workers and I believe it’s time for other practitioners to support him too. Peter has thrown open the topic and put it up for discussion on a fabulous blog platform. He’s also putting his views out there on how we can have a better quality system. I can’t wait to read his posts, they will be a huge support for me particularly now as I am heading back, once again, to conciliation to battle for my rightful compensation after a rejected part payment application (93cd) from my WorkSafe Agent (which now leaves me at 14 months with $0/0% support during my return to work process).

The literature is clear that people whose injuries are managed within a compensation system have worse outcomes, but why? Insurers would have you believe it is all because of fraud, secondary gain or that injured workers don’t want to get better. In reality it is more complex. Certainly there are issues about ’taking responsibility’  for one’s own recovery that can be lacking within a compensation system, but there are many other factors that affect the outcome. Important issues include stigmatisation of workers who put in claims and lack of access to appropriate treatment. The system often unreasonably questions a person’s genuineness, creating a response to prove there has been injury. The system of claims management remains adversarial. Responses include the development of secondary psychological illness which can be more disabling than the original injury. These issues can have dramatic effects on injured workers, i.e. Adding Insult to Injury….

…As a practitioner in private medical practice, I wanted to contribute to debate from my experience of the problems with the workers compensation system. Not only to raise issues, but to put forward solutions. That is difficult as a solo practitioner.

Here’s your chance practitioners, stand up, contribute and speak out. Demand a better Worker’s Compensation system.

Follow Dr Sharman:

Formal Complaint to WorkSafe Victoria

Author:

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’. Continue Reading

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 Continue Reading

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? Continue Reading

The Medical Panels assessment of my work capacity 2014

Author:

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

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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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