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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What to do when workcover is debilitating and not improving my health problem?

    Im being asked to attend WC psychiatrists and Medical Panels to continue my WC payments. I find this continual harassment debilitating where my mood and emotional state plummets and at times to a suicidal level. How can government departments put sufferers like myself through this gruelling process when they supposedly have an “understanding” and “promote” depression and anxiety awareness?
    People on WC with similar problems have “invisible” symptoms which are very real and each time I am asked to expose my wounds, it's like peeling a piece of myself back and allowing these supposed experts to poke and prod and undo any advancement I have made taking me back considerably. How can this be to the benefit of my condition?
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    One of the difficulties with involvement in the WC system that clients often report to me is that  experience of a loss of control over fundamental areas of their life ie. occupationally and personally. At the same time the injured worker has obligations to fulfil within that system such as attending reasonable appointments. I treat a lot of WC clients with PTSD, depression and anxiety and in this circumstance I advise them to take the following steps to take become proactive and assume control over their recovery and rehabilitation.

    1. Write a chronological history of your injury/course of your condition to keep on your computer so you can add to it as time progresses and circumstances change. This way when you are asked to attend an Independent Medical Examination (IME) you take the printed document and give that to the doctor or psychologist conducting the assessment. You respectfully tell them that going over the same information multiple times verbally  is not assisting with your recovery and for this reason you have a written document they can read and if they have any questions after they have read it you would be happy to answer them. This also serves two other purposes it reduces the chance of errors that can occur in giving a verbal history and it enables you to have equal control over the interview process. It is not reasonable for Insurers to be sending injured workers for multiple IMEs in a twelve month period without a clinical justification so if you feel that the insurer is exceeding what is reasonable contact Workcover directly on their helpline and ask them. 
    2. Take a support person to any IMEs. The support person cannot contribute information to the interview but they can take notes on your behalf if you feel that is necessary and they will also be able to verify your recollections later. When the appointment is made indicate to the person advising you of the appointment that you will be bringing a support person. At the appointment you need to indicate to the examining practitioner that you have a support person with you and as a professional courteousy  ask the examiner if they agree to the support person sitting in. In my experience most medical examiners do not raise an objection if the request is made respectfully.  If this is refused you may decide you do not want to proceed with the interview but you need to be able to justify your decision on that basis to the Insurer or Workcover.
    3. Ask the Insurer in writing for a copy of the IME report (They do not willingly provide it). You may be able to request a copy under the privacy act depending on which state you live in and you may be asked to pay an ‘administration fee’ for the suppy of it to you). If the Insurer does not want to release it to you directly because of concerns for your well being (more common with psychological injuries) then you can request it be released to your nominated treating doctor (NTD) and then make an appointment with your NTD so they can give you access to the report and answer any questions you might have. Your doctor can give you a copy if they choose to.
    4. The WC system is there to assist the injured worker to return to employment. From a long term perspective financially and psychologically the outcomes for injured workers are much better if they return to their pre-injury occupational functioning (not necessarily the same job or employer depending on the circumstances) but being gainfully employed. So it is important to inform yourself about what assistance is available to you to help you to get back to work  within the workcover system. Such as work trials, financial assistance with one off purchases that will directly enable you to take up a position (ie. tools, equipment etc.) interview skills, resume writing, job seeking, advice regarding disclosure of injury etc. Keeping yourself informed about your rights as well  as fulfilling your responsibilities is another way of maintaining control and being proactive in your own recovery.

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    Alison Tennant

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    I have worked as a Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist since 1986, arriving in Australia from South Africa in 2008. I have worked with a wide … View Profile

    As a clinical psychologist I find your tips extremely helpful! I often have clients who are dealing with the WC system and I sometimes think the WC system exacerbates their psychological distress immensely and although I have also informed them of some of the things you say, I have never thought to write it down in a handout, which I might do from now on. It would perhaps be helpful to inform WC of the need to employ psychologically aware people and to give them some training so that they do not further traumatize the client. 
    Thank you for this post!

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    I have had exactly the same problem with sending me to their doctors, the doctor I was seeing recently told me that I needed to think positive and to change my thinking. This is not about just having a bad day, this depression is taking over my life where some days I can't get out of bed, I am having anxiety attacks and high blood pressure...I can't manafacture these things, it is very real, but they just do not get it. if they would stop harrassing me to return to hours at work for a job that doesn't really exist and that I can't manage, maybe I would recover better in my own time with peace and quite. I am hearing you and not sure what to do about it...I'm in the workcover whirlpool and it gets faster everyday, or so it seems. hang in there...

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