At a Queen’s Park press conference today [news release], the Ontario Network of Injured Workers and Ontario Federation of Labour released “Prescription Over-ruled: Report on How Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board Systematically Ignores the Advice of Medical Professionals“. Produced with the assistance of six registered psychologists who originally raised the alarm about the WSIB’s management of medical care and medical evidence as it relates to WSIB benefits recipients, the report details their concerns and those of their patients. Many health care professionals and injured workers have come forward since with their own accounts of the ways in which WSIB’s inappropriate regulation of medical care is causing harm – when treatment recommendations are disregarded and health providers prevented from providing adequate care.
“Injured patients find themselves re-victimized by the very system that is mandated to compensate and protect them.”
Ahead of the press conference, the issues raised by the psychologists were the subject of recent media coverage:
“Ontario psychologists claim WSIB unfairly denying patient claims” / (CBC Toronto News, 4 Nov.)
A group of Ontario psychologists warn that, in order to reduce the Board’s costs and the unfunded liability, the WSIB is ignoring their recommendations for treatment and getting other doctors to overrule their professional opinions about their patients’ fitness to return to work.
On yesterday’s CBC Radio’s Metro Morning FM 99.1 interview, North York psychologist, Dr Giorgio Ilacqua, discussed concerns about the emotional impact on injured workers of increased difficulties in getting their claims approved: “These people need help in a short time, not to wait for red tape in order to get coverage.” An opinion also expressed in the interview by Ontario Federation of Labour’s Director of Organization Services, Laurie Hardwick. As she noted, the results can also be catastrophic for the province. By pushing injured workers onto public health and social assistance programs, the taxpayer ends up paying for worker injuries, rather than the workplace where they were injured.
“Now I’m just a number” / Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star, 31 Oct.)
Sudbury psychologists Ed Bassis, Keith Klassen and Lorraine Champaigne, with many years’ experience in treating clients through the WSIB, feel they have a social responsibility to speak out. They say that in recent years what was a bad situation – difficulty accessing services and lost wages – has “become horrible in a way that’s significantly harming (clients)”, with the WSIB in effect traumatizing injured workers a second time.
They charge the Board with decisionmaking without the proper information and failure to recognize that physical injuries (and resulting chronic pain) can lead to psychological problems that make it impossible for people to return to work. Also, that the WSIB pressures clients to return to work before they are ready, calls them to tell their benefits are being cut or reduced without explaining why… “It’s almost as if WSIB has adopted a policy, Bassis said, of “turn everyone down. It doesn’t matter what’s going on. Let them appeal.” Fellow psychologist Michel Lariviere, who teaches at Laurentian University, agrees. “That’s the killer right there, because now they’re facing one, two, three years’ worth of petitioning. Meanwhile, they lose their house, their cars, their wives … that’s where things start really falling apart.”
“My life was ripped from me and I was given nothing”.
Aaron Beland, then a high school student was working a summer job when his head was crushed by a co-worker backing up to the loading ramp. Now 27, he is still coping with the physical and mental health consequences of a brain injury that the WSIB accepts will impair him for life – however it won’t pay for the services he needs now or the wages he might have earned. Beland says the WSIB has closed his case and says he has recovered as much as possible, leaving him to subsist on Ontario Disability Support Program benefits.
Bassis challenges claims that clients are defrauding WSIB, saying: “The fraud is on the part of WSIB. When you charge for a benefit and you don’t deliver it, that’s fraud.”