Comcare tried to blame fishing, not keyboard work for worker wrist injury


As we all know by now, workcover insurance companies, selected IMEs and their defense lawyers will go to great lengths to find some (any!) cause of your problem (injury/illness) the workcover insurer won’t have to pay for, deny that your injury (illness) happened at work,or was caused in the workplace or even deny the existence of your problem. In this legal case, Comcare et al. tried to blame the worker’s wrist tenosynovitis on the worker’s love of deep sea fishing, and an IME (Dr Richard Gibberd) didn’t even believe the symptoms were organic in nature despite the obvious MRI imaging!

Comcare tried to blame fishing, not keyboard work for worker wrist injury

Background of the workcover matter

The injured worker, has been an employee of Telstra for very many years. He complains of tenosynovitis to his right hand which he attributes to his employment, in particular, the need to use a keyboard and a computer mouse in performing his daily tasks.(Tenosynovitis is inflammation of the lining of the sheath that surrounds a tendon (the cord that joins muscle to bone) and is generally associated with repetitive strain).
He made a claim for compensation for his tenosynovitis pursuant to the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (the SRC Act). Telstra (by its insurer) rejected the claim, alleging his wrist condition was caused by fishing, and not the repetitive use of keyboard and mouse.

The AAT Hearing

The Telstra injured worker claimed he first experienced sharp, stabbing pain in the back of his right hand in late 2005 or early 2006, and consulted a doctor in September 2010 when the frequency of pain increased and his hand started to swell

The injured worker was subsequently diagnosed with tenosynovitis of the right wrist and lodged a claim for compensation, which Telstra rejected.

The injured worker told the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) that he suffered from a “repetitive strain type injury relating to his work”, and that his treating doctor said it “probably is related to his use of a mouse as that is the exact action that these tendons have in extending the wrist”.

[The injured worker] reported he also experienced right wrist pain. He reported wrist pain occurred when completing keying and mousing tasks. He reported the pain often extended from his wrist, up to his right forearm…

Dr Price is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and senior lecturer at James Cook University in hand and lower limb surgery and stated: “I think that it is a very reasonable assumption that his excessive working particularly on a mouse and keyboard where he has to keep his wrist extended has actually resulted in this tenosynovitis around the ECRB [extensor carpi radialis brevis] and ECRL [extensor carpi radialis longus]. Dr Price expressed the opinion that the tenosynovitis “probably is related to his use of a mouse as that is the exact action that these tendons have in extending the wrist”.

Telstra, through Comcare, argued the worker’s injury was more likely to have been caused by his hobbies, such as deep sea fishing! Yeah right…

And an IME doctor—well known hired gun Dr Richard Gibberd, an orthopaedic surgeon—who examined the injured worker for Telstra – didn’t even believe the symptoms were organic in nature.

Dr Gibberd, who appears to be based in Sydney and who has little clinical practice at present, saw [the injured worker] Richards on 10 December 2010. He found no evidence of any underlying pathology and described the symptoms recounted by [the injured worker] as “bizarre” and not commensurate with the subsequent findings of the MRI. There was, he said, nothing in his examination which was consistent with “a synovitis on extensor carpi radialis longus or brevis”. The MRI findings, he considered, were “probably…just an imaging appearance, and not symptomatic” [WTF!!!]

Thankfully, the AAT rejected the Telstra doctor’s argument, and said it was satisfied the worker suffered from work-related tenosynovitis. The AAT stated it was not convinced that the injury was caused by the alleged recreational activities. The AAT ordered Telstra pay compensation, as well as the legal costs of the injured worker.

You can read the full text of this case here:  R and Telstra Corporation Limited [2012] AATA 491 (30 July 2012)

Help us purge all rogue IME doctors

workcovervictimsdiary believes that any IME doctor who has been the subject of repeated adverse judicial commentary due to unqualified, incomplete, or shoddy assessments – that IME doctor should be barred from participating in the system.In order to attempt an ending to the practice of substandard, biased IMEs we should all add links to interesting stories and legal cases with quotes from the judges (where applicable) of fact that speak volumes about the inferior quality of these IMEs.

And so it is that this Dr Richard Gibbert (orthopedic surgeon, Sydney) can be added to that list of those IME’s to be purged from our system.


[post dictated and manually transcribed on behalf of WVC]

One Response to “Comcare tried to blame fishing, not keyboard work for worker wrist injury”

  1. I to have been on WORKCOVER for 10 years now, I went to a IME ,
    He said I was ready for work,
    Dr Nye, Died.
    He was 74.

    He made I was sure to get Nothing,
    I have Nothing.