I recently asked an orthopaedic surgeon why he recently decided to cease accepting workcover patients; the surgeon gave an interesting but perhaps wretched answer, saying that workcover patients are much more difficult o engage and treat than general patients because “these injured workers are so angry at the [workcover] system”.
Angry at the workcover system
What this orthopaedic surgeon said was – in my injured opinion – both very intense and disturbing. Would this be an accurate observation of [most] injured workers?
Perhaps. One only needs to look around the Internet to find frustrated and angry postings by injured workers, many of them are posted on this site too (for example on our specially created “Vent!” page).
The workcover system is a terror journey, and many injured workers are – rightly- mad at workcover insurers’ delays, denials, interference. There is really no outlet for our pent-up injured rage, no way to vent, apart from – preferably doing it online and anonymously (rather than taking it out on our carers, family and friends). But what is perhaps most disturbing is that when injured workers do vent on the Internet (e.g sites like aworkcovervictimsdiary) the general perception is that these folks – that is WE, the injured workers- are completely irrational!
Of course, nobody likes to deal with angry people, so when injured workers vent some pent-up steam, the general perception is that they further damage their cases because the wall of anger decreases approachability. Injured workers are seen as unsociable, unfriendly, ungrateful, unreachable and unapproachable.
Obviously when we’re so angry at the ‘system’ our ability to rationally converse and communicate decreases as well.This is particularly a problem when injured workers are repeatedly sent to [not so honest] independent medical examination doctors – many injured workers walk in to the exam angry, enraged and/or defensive.
Fact is for many of us, our utter frustration and anger at “the system” leads us to hire personal injury lawyer(s). At least they can rationally communicate and converse with those at whom we are so angry, be it our case managers, our employer, or a dispute conference issue (i.e. conciliation).
But why are we (injured workers) so angry at “the system”? Who’s fault is it? Who or what is to blame?
In our injured opinion it is the workcover system – in particular the workcover insurers’ fault. They are to blame for injured workers’ anger, rage and frustration (never-mind desperation!). They have created a bureaucratic, adversarial system where communication and accountability are minimal to non-existent!
Required paperwork from our workcover insurers, notices and forms and some more paper based requests for all sorts does NOT equal communication! Proper communication needs to be a two-way process! Importantly listening – active listening is required. We do know from our personal experiences with “the system” that many times some empathetic communication (i.e. from the part of our obnoxious case manager) is all we truly need!
What’s more, given the minimal to non-existent accountability, our workcover system is filled with countless negative incentives. Do something against the rules and you get punished. Worse: injured workers are considered criminals until proven innocent and then some!
In fact we have come to believe that we, injured workers, are like sort of beaten dogs! After a while in “the system” the beaten dog (= the injured worker) is always trying NOT to do something to make the master mad or more mad! Simply looking to make the master happy does not work, you surely have found out!
So what could be done to make injured workers less angry or frustrated?
Wouldn’t it be nice if workcover staff, such as case managers were actually taught to be nice and friendly, and a little empathic to their “clients” – us, the injured workers? It should be a mandatory and even legal obligation. Nothing good comes from an angry interaction and at the end of the day the costs (on the part of the workcover insurer) will inevitably escalate! Think for example how many injured workers have suffered true nervous breakdowns from their “interactions” with their case manager(s), requiring treatment, medication…and which more often than not impedes the injured worker’s recovery (be it from a physical and/or a mental injury).
So why on earth is this so hard for the workcover “system” to be “nice”? What could we change?
- Well, perhaps the most important fact is that the one who pays for the injured worker’s claim (medical and like benefits, weekly pay etc.) is literally the “defendant” and they simply and harshly “defend” against claims and benefits. In other words: it’s all about the money (again)! Workcover case managers are taught to be DEFENSIVE, in other words: it is hard to be “nice” and “friendly” or “empathic” when you have been taught to fight everything – Deny, Delay – Stall, Starve, Settle.
- Workcover case managers do have high workload and, sure their work may be emotionally straining, but that does not mean the injured worker needs to be at the receiving side of the case manager’s bad day(s)!
- Workcover insurers and their staff all have countless rules and regulations to uphold by. But surely something could be done to teach staff not get consumed by them all the time.
[Dictated by WCV & manually transcribed by T on her behalf]
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