Recently we asked a group of injured workers to answer a series of questions about life on workers compensation in NSW and the impact it has had on their life. We are now receiving some really insightful but disturbing responses.
We urge other injured workers to tell us their stories by answering the same questions – anonymity is assured. You can forward your replies to firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s what one injured worker had to say:
1: Briefly describe life before being injured
I was a professional, a high achiever, resourceful, visionary, an advocate, I was passionate, friendly, outgoing, a people person, I enjoyed my work, my social life, sitting by the river listen to an impromptu band and eating oysters, bushwalking, going to the gym, enjoying friends, enjoying and being part of family, walking, exploring, walking around rocks and sitting by the ocean …. Somewhat free I guess.
2: How and when did your injury occur?
I had three injuries in total, one in which I was burnt and one in which I was assaulted twice. Both of which I returned to work within a week performing full duties. The last incident was after our funding had been slashed and we, in a short time had to transition from a program that provided specialist holistic therapeutic care to one of containment only. Instead of one on one care it became one to two care. It was a disaster, one of complete chaos for both young people and staff. A lot of staff went down, in the 11th hour. Nobody saw it coming. It wasn’t just residential care that was cut, it was key programs, and it’s in every system including work cover.
There was an occurrence during this process that brought about feeling in me that I was a passive abuser. This occurrence consisted of the positive holistic care of one young person, then the transfer of a younger client late one night, into the containment program… it immediately broke down, with both young people who suffer from complex trauma e.g. an inability to self regulate their emotions, inability to cope with change, attachment disorder, dissociative disorder, violent tendencies, poor social/life skills, self harm issues and mental health issues. You can imagine the outcome.. Both children were permanently hyper aroused, violent, there’s more, but I don’t want to talk about it. That one really hit me… I felt morally and ethically deficient. These children were removed from their homes because of abuse.. And we were standing by watching them assault each other, violent attacks, self harm; the only way to keep them safe was to lock them in their rooms … it was too much. I called they helpline in order to redeem myself. Lot of good that did, they were slashed too.
The last incident involved a young person chroming and spraying me in the face, fighting me. I retreated to the office and he kept trying to pull the screen door off. I ran away as soon as change over occurred.
3: How has your injury impacted on your life? (Mentally, physically, socially)
Mentally I was shattered… 24 years of my life gone in a heartbeat.. Nothing left but a shroud lying amongst the rubble that was my life. It has been a challenging and confronting journey in facing that loss of self. I experienced anxiety so intense that I would sit in the corner of my lounge room and hide or pace aimlessly for hours, loosing time, I still do that.. I have improved though, mainly due to medication… Valium in particular as it reduces my anxiety and lowers my blood pressure. I still can’t go into crowded places or drive and I’m sick of being afraid of shadows, night mares and fear.
Physically it has taken its toll. I have PTSD one of the symptoms of which is stress induced hypertension, which is not controlled by normal medication; Stress causes my adrenaline glands to over produce adrenaline which causes the hypertension.
Whilst I am medicated I have been using herbal and alternate therapies due to my immune system crashing, these treatments have helped me.
Socially – well there is no social me any more.. when I look at this question I see a Huge abyss between the old me and the NOW me … I do not have a life … I have cut myself from many people … and my family. I haven’t found the bridge for that gap yet.
4: Describe the treatment you have received from your employer and insurer?
Where do I begin, I’ll start with my employer, they have been nothing but supportive toward me. The Hr manager called me every week and they accept total liability for my injury.
My insurer .. Initially they were good … then I initiated a goal which consisted of me transferring my holistic skills to healing.. They were all for it. They passed it up to the powers that be and it was passed back down as they had not followed process. I was seeing cardiologists and other specialists at this time. My Dr was trying to find a physical cause for my hypertension which was not responding to medication and my blood pressure was erratic. Still is.
I was supposed to go into mental health clinic for treatment of PTSD which included a symptom of PTSD, this being hypertension. My insurer served me with a section 74 refusing treatment and denying liability for my hypertension that was 8 mths ago… The ironic bit is I had never made a claim to them for the hypertension.. Nor did I have the test results.. I ended up on and am now addicted too valium as a result and have been since August 2012. I’m still waiting for more section 74’s which my insurer has failed to provide.
In February we went before the arbitrator … at which time they, the insurer failed to produce any documents. Even though authorised they failed to obtain any information such as test results, reports etc. The only report they tabled had me working in childcare.. That picture puts a different take on my story… the report did though support treatment. Needless to say it was farcical; agreements were made and not kept. The Arbitrator had no option other than to dismiss the case and send it through to WIRO. My solicitor is in charge of that process.
It’s a difficult journey, It’s like they, the insurer, pick pieces from varies reports and legislation, to use to their advantage in regards to saving money.. And appear to want to starve me out, hence why they neglect to increase my payment and questioned where I had received $10.000 from. It was none of their business, my recourses are just that, my resource called family, they loaned money so I could get all my regular payments in advance, to buffer the impact.
Now their stopping my counselling based on a report that wasn’t tabled before the arbitrator as it criticised them but did recommend that I be transitioned to Medicare for my counselling sessions (give it to the tax payer). Which I can’t afford as I have not as of yet being put up to the new rate and have only been receiving $419 per fortnight… I had to cancel my health insurance as I could no longer afford it. Now I need to go to the dentist … I’m poor
I held resentment toward them, the staff of the insurer, for a while, but it’s not their individual fault. They are victims of funding cuts also, they have become dehumanised and are buffered from the reality and have no idea like the rest of us as too what’s going on… one minute it’s this way then the Supreme Court overrules… it’s a battle field and we, the consumers are the victims… It’s humiliating, soul destroying, I feel like a criminal. No I think they are better off, they have civil rights.
5: What is your life now?
Like I’m a mouse in a wheel, running fast but going no where.
6: What is your opinion of the work cover system?
I think it’s a failure that will cost the tax payer… It has no workable structure, it doesn’t have a client focused case management system, it has pathways that lead to dead ends and people who have no idea what’s happening, and it’s a system that’s waiting to collapse in on its self. It’s brutal.
7: How have the changes in the laws affected you?
They have impacted upon me hugely.. I’m caught between two systems due to the Supreme Court rulings, the old and the new. This is due to my injury taking place prior to the changes being implemented in June. Although I did not benefit as others did with payment increases when the changes were implemented. They appear to be selective about where we fit. I’m caught in the middle. Sometimes it’s overwhelming… frightening really as it really highlights the ineptness of the changes that were introduced with ought thought of consequences… the same as other sectors.
In truth, I no longer have faith in our systems or government, in any of it. Sometimes I feel that conversing with possums in Tasmania would be more beneficial to me than trying to make sense of this system. I truly find it difficult to fathom the labyrinth of bureaucratic dead ends they, the bureaucrats have created. If it wasn’t real I think I would laugh and think who would be so stupid… I guess it takes a special kind of stupid to make the tangled web that I’m trapped in.
8: what needs to change?
Our laws need to become more proactive and less rigid… they need a human face and be flexible to change and grow in a positive manner … we are a global society.. In order to be functional, systems need a solid corner stone’s as their foundation and to be flexible in their structure in order to serve the people, after all we do pay their wages. In order to achieve positive outcomes, they need to be human and have a human face.
In truth everything needs to change and I think that’s happening now, globally. Whether we as a society collapse under the weight of the rubble of failed systems … or we change direction, unite and grow. I don’t know.. Can WE do it .. As individuals yes.. As a collective mind yes.. As a united supported front, YES.
But alas the powers that be are not driven by conscience, morals, ethics or values… they are driven by money and their too blinded by greed in the name of economy, to see that what they are doing will ultimately cost them more than they saved.
They only see the macro not the micro and they are not capable of seeing it in its entirety. It’s a bit like seeing the crescent of the moon as opposed to seeing the whole of the moon.