The NSW government has failed to act on an independent report raising serious concerns about the plight of injured workers following its controversial changes to WorkCover NSW laws for almost 18 months.
The Daily Telegraph has uncovered that the appointment of Paul John Gregory, a lawyer who was sentenced to two years imprisonment for tax fraud in 2010, as WIRO’s Implementation Director is part of a string of apparent “jobs for the boys” appointments involving Mr Garling.
According to the NSW Business Chamber, Kim Garling, the Workcover Independent Review Officer (WIRO), has (in Nov 2014) announced an inquiry under Section 27 (c) of the Workplace Injury management and Workers Compensation Act 1998.
A parliamentary inquiry has heard that under the O’Farrell government’s changes to WorkCover NSW, an amputated foot is not considered a “serious injury” Helooo! If an amputated foot is not considered “serious”, then what the ef is? We believe Barry O’Farrell, Gary Jeffrey, the acting general manager of WorkCover’s workers’ compensation insurance division (and their friends) need to have their feet urgently amputated, just so they can get a “feel” for what it’s like! Thanks God for Greens MP David Shoebridge, who continues to fight damn hard for injured workers in NSW!
WorkCover NSW is also taking up to four months to review claims by injured workers – far exceeding its statutory limit of 30 days.
WorkCover NSW changes disadvantage amputees, inquiry hears
In addition, it is taking , the NSW Legislative Council’s Law and Justice Committee heard on Friday.
WorkCover changes disadvantage amputees, inquiry hearsBy: Anna Patty- SMH March 21, 2014
An amputated foot is not considered a “serious injury” under the O’Farrell government’s changes to WorkCover NSW, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.
In addition, it is taking WorkCover up to four months to review claims by injured workers – far exceeding its statutory limit of 30 days, the NSW Legislative Council’s Law and Justice Committee heard on Friday.
The O’Farrell government’s WorkCover NSW changes, which started in 2012, were designed to lower the costs of the workplace compensation agency.
Since the changes were introduced, the number of injured workers receiving benefits under WorkCover NSW has dropped sharply, from about 70,500 in 2012 to about 60,000 in 2013.
“Prior to the reforms an injury as severe as an amputated foot would see an injured worker receive lifelong medical benefits and income support till their retirement age,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“Now workers with this level of injury are losing their entitlements to medical benefits and receiving at most, five years of income support.”
Mr Jeffrey said it could take four months to resolve an injured worker’s review claim. A merit review is conducted when an injured worker challenges the denial of a claim for workers’ compensation.
The inquiry also heard that workers could not recover any benefits lost during delays in the processing of merit reviews.
If the injured worker successfully challenged WorkCover’s decision to deny them benefits, WorkCover’s independent review officer, Kim Garling, said they “can never catch up” on any payments lost.
“It’s a complete gap,” Mr Garling said.
When asked whether his office was adequately resourced, Mr Garling said: “No.”
He said the workers’ compensation system was skewed towards creating a dispute with injured workers and that the cost of resolving disputes often outweighed the cost of the claim being disputed.
“We think it’s time the method in which claims are dealt with needs to be reconsidered,” he said.
“One of the major problems we’ve had is that the system appears to be skewed towards creating a dispute rather than solving the problem for the worker. The aim should be to get that worker the resources that they need to be cured and then to get back to work.”
Mr Shoebridge said: “WorkCover has been given an important job in this new scheme of doing a merit review when an injured worker disagrees with an insurer’s decision about their entitlement to weekly compensation.
“These are injured workers who are often desperately in need of their benefits. The average time has blown out to four months, which is unacceptable,” he said.
The proportion of injured workers receiving weekly payments has fallen from 40,632 in 2012 to 32,934 in 2013.
WorkCover’s general manager of the work health and safety division, John Watson, said there was a downward trend in major claims for workers’ compensation.
He said in 2011/12, the major incident claim rate was 8.7 per 1000 workers, the lowest since 1987.
Work-related fatality rates were also improving with a 35 per cent reduction recorded over the 10 years to 2011/12.[Source: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/workcover-changes-disadvantage-amputees-inquiry-hears-20140321-358l1.html]
The NSW government’s current workers compensation scheme and insurance companies denying medical treatment put workers at a “double disadvantage”, says an independent review (undertaken by the WIRO). That the O’Farrell workcover NSW amendments have colossally failed is, by now, well known by all injured workers.
According to the WIRO, the Workers Compensation Amendment (Medical Expenses) Regulation 2013 has today been gazetted.
A couple of weeks ago we were contacted by a NSW injured worker, who shared his long and rather complex workcover story. The injured worker who will be facing a Hearing in a few months’ time would like to see if other NSW injured workers are having the same issues or troubles, and says “it would be fantastic to hear any comments that may help me through these very cloudy uncertain days.”
Further to our article titled “Time to discuss some issues with Mr Kim Garling – the NSW WIRO Officer “, which states that despite having 31 staff and the (WIRO) office costing $8.4 million a year to run, Mr Garling was forced to admit the office had received just 350 complaints in almost a year in the job. ”….And worse, “Of those, 50 matters are outstanding – only two of them “serious”; it appears that one of the reasons for those few complaints is that few injured workers know of the WIRO’s existence. Mr Garling wants to make sure NSW injured workers know the WIRO is there to help injured workers.
Further to our article titled “NSW WIRO Executive Kim Garling racked up $15k on US trip” highlighting some very questionable past and current conduct on the part of Mr Kim Garling, head of the WIRO, and of the inner workings of the very costly WIRO, we, and many NSW injured workers believe it is high time to discuss some issues with Mr Garling.
Here is a recent WorkCover Independent Review Officer procedural review decision of an insurer’s work capacity decision or assessment on an injured worker.