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Society seeks assurances on integrity of permanent impairment assessment reports
The Society has
recently communicated with Return to Work SA
with regards to its processes and policies behind assessments of injured workers for permanent impairment.
Concerns have been raised in regards to whether doctors who have provided Section 22 assessment reports were being influenced or pressured by the Corporation or insurers to alter or amend their opinions. Any degree of coercion in such circumstances is not permitted under the scheme. Concerns have also been raised with regards to RTWSA unilaterally communicating with medical assessors in such circumstances.
Aspects of this have been raised in recent decisions including
Frkic v Return to Work Corporation of SA
Palios v Return to Work Corporation of SA
Canales-Cordova v Return to Work Corporation of SA
In these decisions, the Tribunal set out in detail the inappropriateness of unilateral communication between Return to Work and the medical practitioner, where a report had been provided and the purpose of the communication was to seek to have the medical practitioner alter their assessment. Unilateral communication with a doctor that seeks to coerce or guide them to change their opinion is clearly not permitted.
The Full Bench’s decision in
We agree with the reasons of Rossi DPJ in Palios and Gilchrist DPJ in Canales-Cordova that unauthorised, inappropriate or unlawful actions by the respondent in the s22 process, can enliven the exercise of the discretion referred to in decisions such as Bunning v Cross and may result in the exclusion of the subsequent reports. In our view, it is plainly relevant if in circumstances such as addressed by Gilchrist DPJ in Canales-Cordova and, the circumstances of this matter, an assessor is not only being requested to alter the assessment of whole person impairment but is also being placed in a position where the regulated professional fee that the assessor is entitled to, will not be paid by the respondent until its invitation to provide an amended report is addressed.
In accordance with these decisions the Society has sought assurances from Return to Work that such conduct is not continuing to occur, and further, that policies and procedures are being implemented to ensure that it does not occur again in the future.
The Society has received assurances from Return to Work that the Corporation does not ask assessors to reconsider or amend their reports.