Another year has passed and we hope it is not too late in the year already to wish all Australian injured workers a happy New year? So, Happy New Year to all injured workers! Perhaps it is a good time to talk about how medium to severely injured workers are affected within the first year (and/or another year) after a workplace injury.
The first year after a medium to severe workplace injury
Within the first twelve months of a work injury, medium to severely injured workers can expect the following.
- injured workers will become increasingly alienated from colleagues (co-workers) and the employer whom they now strongly feel has abandoned him/her
- injured workers’ expectancy that their work injury would be “short term medical care” has been quashed
- injured worker’s “relationship” with the workcover case manager will become increasingly strained, compromised or untenable. By now most injured workers will have some form of ‘restraining order’ against their case manager (ie.all contact via a solicitor, all contact in writing only, no phone calls..)
- Many injured workers have by now seen multiple providers, sometimes with conflicting goals, and may now have incompatible diagnoses. Worst of all is the so-called “doctor shopping” on the part of the workcover insurance to find any means possible to have an “alternative diagnosis” in the workcover insurer’s favour (think along the lines: “it’s in your head”, it’s “pre-existing”, “old age”, “wear and tear”, “there’s nothing wrong with you”)
- Many injured workers have become concurrently irritable but also both passive and dependent. Some have become enraged. Some have become extremely depressed or a combination of all…
- The financial picture of many injured workers has become very bleak and is only worsening, adding to the desperate situation and let’s not forget the continued threats injured workers receive about further “cut-offs” (i.e. denied home help, denied transport, medication “review”, delayed, denied MRI, scans, surgery, cut off physio, psychology services etc)
- Many injured workers have now become sedentary, de-conditioned and very unmotivated, and some have become outright hopeless. Being put under surveillance – or the thought thereof – is enough for many injured workers to remain locked up in their homes out of fear private investigator may film them and take things out of context.
- the injured worker spends increasing time sleeping, ruminating (about workcover and their bedfellows) and perhaps things like over-eating…
- the injured worker has become focused and pre-occupied upon issues of rights and approval of medical and like care rather than issues of improvement – why? because of the retaliatory nature of the workcover insurance! It’s a constant fight to obtain legitimate “entitlements”/”benefits”; conciliation after conciliation; frustration sets in; anger; and it’s really about basic human rights!
- many injured workers have no clear career alternatives, conceived goals or direction… why? Again the way their “cases” are mismanaged by the workcover insurer… dodgy IME’s, weird rehab service providers and vocational assessments dictated by case managers
- the injured worker has become very conflicted as to where to invest trust and hope
Within this first year of a serious injury, many injured workers have all but established a new personal identity. Their values and belief systems have been altered, and their belief that they can change the course of their future has been eroded, courtesy of a totally sick workers compensation system.
The next year after a medium to severe workplace injury
The next year can be even more ominous, and available time will again be filled tracking medication, pursuing and fighting endless battles with the workcover insurer to obtain the most basic, legitimate entitlements. The injured worker becomes even more focused and preoccupied with issues of rights and approval of (medical) care.
At this stage, it’s like the war is on. Workcover insurers will do anything to cut off legitimate entitlements such as physiotherapy and psychological counselling; and at a time where you need it the most. Constant harassment, bullying and intimation on the part of the workcover insurer (i.e your case manager, the rehab service provider) will be the norm and will start making many injured workers feel mentally ill (think PTSD, depression) and many injured workers will lose what little trust they had left in the workers comp system. Tactics, scheming and virtually illegal scams will be used to force severely injured workers to return to work, even though your own medical treaters certified you unfit for all work; many injured workers will at this stage develop serious secondary psychological injuries such as major depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder, PTSD and even paranoia. Looking over your shoulders will become a reflex, you will feel like you are constantly being spied upon (workcover surveillance), and many will slowly retreat into their “shell”, become utterly numb and disconnect from the world.
With that in mind, you may need to know if you are feeling increasingly agitated, irritable, impatient and indecisive, napping more often and staring blankly at the television, this is “normal”. Because the workers compensation system makes you sick.
Consider that you can become markedly more depressed with the start of yet another year that we (seriously injured workers) interpret as empty and without change or direction…
Now, if you add to this medium to severely injured workers who, for example, also happen to suffer from established and diagnosed primary psychological injuries as well (i.e severe PTSD), it is a recipe for disaster.
Secondary psychological injuries quickly develop (especially without early medical and intensive intervention) and you are set to become what I call “a mess”; only to be repeatedly INJURED and TRAUMATIZED by the way you are being treated by the workers’ comp system in the first place.