There were complaints by the ombudsman that claims agents were using preferred psychiatrists, WorkSafe have endeavoured to deal with this by centralising the appointment process however anecdotally it appears that they have outsourced this to others including eReports and other such agents totally going against the concept they are espousing.
Read below to see the drama unfolding. I will keep you informed
Since my last blog in June 2017 there have been further meetings with representatives of WorkSafe and representatives of the College and the medicolegal group. They intend to centralise all appointments for psychiatrists so as to prevent the notion of preferred psychiatrists and we expressed our concerns about being locked into providing timeslots with no guarantee of payment amongst other things. We have raised a number of other issues with them including funding but they refused to deal with this and it is clear that they have their own agenda (as always).
In the meantime we heard that eReports and other agents had been promised a certain number of appointments a week. We had great concerns about this.this was accentuated by the WorkSafe draft Service Standards document, the relevant parts were as follows:
2.2 The person to be examined must not be kept waiting for the examination for an unreasonable time. IMEs should aim to see Injured Workers within 30 minutes of the scheduled appointment time. In the event that the Injured Worker has not presented for the appointment time, it is up to the discretion of the IME as to whether the examination will go ahead.
2.3 IMEs should notify the referring case manager of any appointments that they need to cancel as soon as is practical after they become aware of the need for the cancellation, to allow the case manager to rebook the appointment with the next available IME.
2.4 IMEs should accept referrals or undertake an examination for conditions for which they are qualified and experienced to provide an expert independent opinion.
The following letter was sent to WorkSafe
We write to you on behalf of the Victorian Medicolegal Group concerning the above proposed “requirements”.
The Medicolegal Group represents the vast majority of psychiatrists engaged by WorkSafe as accredited Independent Medical Examiners. As such we have always considered ourselves to be an integral component of the Victorian WorkSafe system. Engaged by WorkSafe under the terms of the Accident Compensation Act 1985, our role has been to provide expert medical advice to assist WorkSafe in determining the outcome of claims and assisting with WorkSafe’s aim of returning injured workers to appropriate employment.
Over the years, we have demonstrated our willingness to proactively assist WorkSafe. For example, our members have conducted training sessions in report writing, provided quality assurance monitoring and even the development of the gazetted measure of impairment for Mental Disorders and training in its use.
The Medicolegal Group also facilitates monthly peer review group meetings for psychiatric IMEs, a critical element in optimising the ongoing production of high quality psychiatric reports for WorkSafe. We see no reason why this cooperation should not continue into the future and indeed is enhanced.
Our concern is with the changes to the booking systems in the proposed arrangements. We believe that it is unfair to request any contractor – let alone a medical professional – to make available blocks of hours on the possibility that these may be contracted. Where these hours are not actually booked for sessions, the Authority does not propose to compensate the practitioner. We believe that this is unduly harsh and has the potential to seriously affect the viable operation of our practices. We would point out that this system has, to an extent, been trialled with respect to stress claims and has already resulted in the realisation of these concerns. The planned roll-out of these changes to cover all bookings will only exacerbate the problems associated with this new process.
It is for this reason that members of our group have not signed the proposed agreement until we have resolved this matter.
We would point out that we have already endeavoured to resolve this matter directly with Worksafe but have been unsuccessful in receiving any meaningful response, if at all. Our concerns over this situation have been heightened due to the fact that, under the terms of the proposed agreement, it is the intention of WorkSafe to institute this new booking system by mid-August. As a consequence, on 28th June 2017, we sought urgent discussions with WorkSafe to propose an alternative booking system that we believe addresses the real needs of the Authority. Unfortunately we have received no reply.
In addition, correspondence and communications from corporate medicolegal providers, claiming to have agreements with Worksafe to undertake up to thirty psychiatric IME appointments per week, suggest that WorkSafe has sought arrangements with those providers outside the parameters of the agreement proposed to individual practitioners. We consider this a breach of good faith.
We believe that this situation could have been avoided if WorkSafe had in place a process of proper consultation with the profession to discuss changes such as these prior to their being issued. We note that we were advised by Worksafe representatives of the proposed arrangements at a face to face meeting in June, and expressed our concerns at this time. However this was not a consultation as Worksafe has proposed to roll-out the new requirements with no attempt having been made to respond to our concerns.
It is in this regard that we propose a regular process of consultation with the profession as a forum to highlight and discuss changes and improvements to the processes of our engagement and any other matters relevant to our engagement. We believe that this would restore good-faith relations between WorkSafe and our profession.
We would also point out that we write to you as a result of the failure of communication by officers of WorkSafe, who have failed to respond to our correspondence of the 28th June 2017 requesting urgent discussions to identify problems and find solutions.
Again we would stress that we believe that this is an unfortunate situation, given the history of previous cooperation between all parties concerned. We would appreciate the opportunity to address these issues to you in person at the earliest opportunity.