WorkCoverSA CEO faces hard tasks as new report damns WorkCover’s performance

Late April 2011 is becoming a period of turmoil in the South Australia’s WorkCover Corporation, on top of the government’s political turmoil from the sudden resignation of the Industrial Relations Minister, Bernard Finnigan, and a minister being charged with child pornography offences.  According to inDaily on 21 April 2011, WorkCover’s Deputy CEO, Jeff Matthews, and Chief Financial Officer, Ian Rhodes, left the organisation suddenly.  CEO Rob Thomson (ex-Workcover New South Wales) says that the positions were axed as part of a restructure.

On 27 April 2011, the most recent review into WorkCover’s operations was released.  The March 2011 report finds that the state’s workers compensation scheme

“…shows little evidence of improved return to work performance, in spite of very heavy referrals to and cost of vocational rehabilitation compared to comparable scheme.”

“..there is a lack of active engagement between the case managers and the vocational rehabilitation sector…”

“…return to work outcomes remain poor while the cost of vocational rehabilitation remains high…”

The report, undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers for WorkCoverSA, suggests four options for future structures but the South Australian government has a further option of only looking like doing something while awaiting the national review of workers’ compensation that the federal government plans to ramp up after the OHS harmonisation process has completed.  This would be a particularly attractive political option when (not really if going by current political trends) the government changes hands to the conservatives at the next election.  The conservative government would gain support from its counterparts in Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, if it wanted to join forces against Labor government reforms.

WorkcoverSA’s  CEO Rob Thomson has faced a significant challenge in his first year in the job

Kevin Jones

7 thoughts on “WorkCoverSA CEO faces hard tasks as new report damns WorkCover’s performance”

  1. Jennifer, there is a particularly good article in today\’s edition of inDaily online newspaper by Des Ryan. Ryan seems sufficiently familiar with the South Australian situation to ask serious questions of the performance of Employers Mutual Limited, the private company who distributes rehabilitation work on behalf of WorkCoverSA.

    It is easy to bash private enterprise and Ryan discusses many of EML\’s shortcomings identified in the recent Walsh Report mentioned in this blog above. Readers should not be dismissive of the problems in South Australia as many insurers operate throughout Australia as workers compensation agents. The role of private enterprise in workers compensation is a crucial consideration particularly as national reform in this sector is already being prepared for.

    Ryan expresses great concern over probity and suggests further investigatioon may be warranted.

  2. When Rosemary speaks about the shut door policy of WorkCover she knows exactly what she is saying and she knows it will serve only to inflame the current situation she is in with WorkCover.

    With all the restructuring going on within WorkCover I can only hope that there is someone wise enough to invite Rosemary inside to learn from her vast knowledge about what it is that injured workers actually need.

    As for the Walsh Report, it appears that great care was given to ensure that Rosemary was not included in the list of people to contact.

  3. I also note the Marshall report seems to be fixated on the cost of the system and early return to work outcomes rather than ensuring the medical outcomes are maximised which in turn will most certainly have a beneficial effect on those two areas. I thought the system was in place to assist injured workers???

    It is a shame that injury prevention, which should be the panacea to the workers compensation ills does not seem to get the the same oxygen in terms of funding and appropriate resourcing. Maybe a significant increase in prevention compliance inspection and action just might develop a reduction in compensation claims ???

    Phil, thanks for the HC references

  4. Tony, The outcome of the Parliamentary Report in terms of redressing the odious changes will be interesting. No doubt it will be hard to be inconsistant with the two most recently released reports. Take in consideration there are still three Full Court (Supreme) decisions to be handed down and Two High Court action currently in dispute which will also impact the scheme. One relates to legal costs here is SA and the other refers to medical panels in Victoria. They can be found here.
    http://www.hcourt.gov.au/cases/case-m176/2010
    http://www.hcourt.gov.au/cases/case-a5/2011

  5. It is said that injured workers should be treated with dignity and respect. I see little of that currently and like Rosemary, I await the outcome of the Parliamentary Report in terms of redressing the odious changes that were made some two years ago.

  6. There was a new board apppointed in 2003. It was up until 2007 they were still calling it a new board. The Stanley review is I suggest is still collecting dust. It just shows how much damage occured while the former CEO was in charge.

  7. It is my belief that until WorkCover SA returns to a consultative Corporation little to nothing will improve. At present all I see is sabre rattling and a very combative approach from the current senior WorkCover management team.

    I have little faith in anything that is being done to improve the lives of injured workers.
    Every day I get calls from injured workers who tell me the same story over and over again, they are not getting the help required to find them employment once they have been detached from the pre-injury employer. The system is just \”timing\” them out so that at the end of the \”allowed\” period the system can simply remove income payments because the injured worker has failed to return to work.

    The Walsh Report suggests many things, but it will fall on deaf ears because the senior management team at WorkCover SA have no desire to engage with anyone who has a different opinion or different concept to what they hold.

    It is my hope that Minister Conlon will take more than a passing interest in what is happening behind the securely locked doors of the SA WorkCover Corporation.

    It is with much hope that I wait for the Parliamentary Report that is due in a few weeks time.

    Yours in service
    Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson
    Founder
    Work Injured Resource Connection

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