There are obvious advantages to having a uniform WorkCover system, interstate companies not having to deal with nine different systems(think about it, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, ACT, Victoria, Tasmania and Comcare!), unions with workers in different states, the amount of bureaucracy, duplication and cost shifting is mind-boggling. It is also a nightmare for IMEs assessing people who have been injured in different jurisdictions.. Like much that we have I often think it would be best if we scrapped the whole thing and started afresh but of course that’s not going to happen.The question of a uniform WorkCover system raises further questions. Why should there be a uniform system for people who are injured at work but totally different system so people injured in transport accidents and loosely no system for people who are injured in other situations. Maybe we should go the New Zealand route and have a uniform accident compensation system for all accidents. One of the advantages of a non- federal system. The political and financial implications however are mind-boggling. Nevertheless the various WorkCover authority’s in each state and territory do have an organisation looking at doing precisely this..
I think there are 4 major problems with a uniform system.
1.The situation is complicated by a number of factors. Most states have moved to AMA 5 except Victoria and the Northern Territory. There is general satisfaction with AMA 4 in Victoria and a large amount of money has been spent in training IMEs. The feedback I have received suggest there will be no change in the near future.
2.The second point is that WorkCover schemes as opposed to motor accident schemes, have powerful constituencies especially unions and employers but also lawyers. This adds to the general unwillingness for either side to sponsor change that may disadvantage their clients.
3. The third issue is a specific issue with regard to psychiatry There are three systems of measuring psychiatric impairment that are incompatible with each other. Comcare uses a rudimentary table, most states use the Psychiatric Impairment Rating Scale about which I’ve written scathingly and Victoria uses the GEPIC (see article). Does this matter? Well, in fact it has great significance because the various thresholds for claiming permanent injury are different according to the method of psychiatric impairment used. For example in New South Wales it is 15% and in Victoria it is 30%. Bearing in mind that the psychiatric impairment has to be impairment that does not result from physical injury. AMA 6, from a psychiatric point of view is a disaster although it is used in the Northern Territory for motor accident claims.
One of the reasons we don’t want change in Victoria is that the GEPIC is used for WorkCover claims, transport accident claims and civil liability claims. This makes impairment assessment much easier and more understandable, it would bring a system into disrepute if a person had both WorkCover claim and a transport accident claim and the impairment assessment produced startling different figures.
There is an answer although not for the foreseeable future. The answer is that the authors of the chapter on mental and behavioural disorders in the American Medical Association Guide produce something worthwhile instead of what has been produced since AMA 2.
4.The unwillingness of individual states and to give up their own power and potential source of income to embrace a national model