The rationale for the Australian government’s evangelism of harmonisation is the reduction of “red-tape” on the logic, or assumption, that business costs will also be reduced. Dr Mary Wyatt, according to a report on ABC News Online, says that cost reductions may be possible be reducing over-servicing of injured workers.
Dr Wyatt says:
“We have an increasing focus on the medicine, and we have lots of scans that tell us there are things wrong with our bodies, and then when those scans are done it’s often labelled as a serious problem, and then the worker gets worried and we often go off on a tangent..”
Diagnostic scan options have expanded considerably and, although there is a risk of too many or too frequent scans, few patients will refuse the offer of a scan if there is a chance it will assist the doctor in making a more through diagnosis. Dr Wyatt’s point that the risk of all of this treatment could generate increased concern in the patient, or injured worker, is an issue that OHS professionals need to consider when establishing a relationship with a service provider and when auditing their performance.
The fact that the company indirectly pays for medical treatment through workers’ compensation insurance should not mean that the company also should not audit the insurance or medical providers. Some States in Australia do not provide the option of changing insurance providers in workers’ compensation as one can on other insurance types but this restriction is being reviewed.
Dr Wyatt provides a useful justification for a coordinated approach to worker rehabilitation by reiterating
“Some years ago there was work done, and it said that the cost is borne equally: one-third by the employee who has the injury, one-third by the employer, and one-third by the community…”
Those employers associations who repeatedly raise the issue of business costs should bear in mind that the employee is contributing just as much to their treatment, and that there is a social cost of injury.
The article paraphrases Dr Wyatt and reinforces the OHS principle that prevention is more effective than treatment through an example:
“….many repetitive strain type injuries could be addressed by ergonomic improvements or altering an employee’s duties when mild pain first arises, rather than treating them later on through an expensive chain of scans and rehabilitation.”
Dr Wyatt is one of the few professionals who attended the first conference on Australia’s harmonisation of workers’ compensation laws to speak openly and to encourage debate on important social, industrial and commercial issues.
Kevin Jones is a regular columnist with RTWMatters a website which is associated with Dr Mary Wyatt