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 WorkCover- Outrage at $439 an hour medicos from interstate

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Gareth Daniels

Number of posts : 8
Registration date : 2007-09-13

PostSubject: WorkCover- Outrage at $439 an hour medicos from interstate   Sun May 30, 2010 7:03 pm

Last updated: May 30, 2010
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Outrage at $439 an hour medicos from interstate
* David Nankervis
* From: Sunday Mail (SA)
* May 30, 2010 12:02AM

INTERSTATE medical experts are costing the financially troubled WorkCover Corporation thousands of dollars a day by travelling to SA to examine injured workers.

The medicos are paid an hourly fee of $439.50 - almost twice what the average worker earns in a day - as well as having their flights and accommodation covered by WorkCover.

And while waiting at the airport or sitting on the plane, the specialists are also paid up to $139 each for reading the first 12 pages of research notes, with a further $8.50 for each extra page.

The Australian Medical Association yesterday branded the fly-ins as "hired guns", whose job could be performed by local medical experts in the "overwhelming majority of cases".

"They are trying to seek someone who, instead of giving an independent opinion, is giving the opinion they want," state AMA president Andrew Lavender said.

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Critics of the WorkCover scheme, which cut compensation payments under controversial changes by the Rann Government in 2008, are also questioning why experts cannot be found in SA to review cases.

Independent MP Ann Bressington plans to ask in Parliament this week how WorkCover can "justify paying doctors over $400 an hour to sit in an aeroplane" while some injured workers "are going without food and medication"?

WorkCover case managers can bring in independent medical examiners to review the diagnoses of doctors already treating injured workers.

The examiners are provided under contract by Employers Mutual.

Since it won the contract in 2006, almost one in 10 of the 557 experts used by Employers Mutual have been flown in from interstate at a cost of $3.2 million to WorkCover.

Information about the individual payments are detailed in WorkCover's Independent Medical Examiners Agreement (Schedule of Fees), a copy of which has been obtained by the Sunday Mail.

The schedule says: "All accounts must include the total time spent travelling as well as the distance travelled."

WorkCover chief executive Julia Davison said interstate medical examiners, typically general surgeons, physicians, psychiatrists and orthopaedic surgeons, were used "in limited circumstances".

"And the decision is usually based on ... availability of appointments, area of speciality in which the medical practitioner works and location of the injured worker," she said.

Ms Bressington wants to know "how much money could WorkCover have saved by using state doctors instead of fly-ins?"

"This money could have gone to return-to-work programs and retraining, which are drastically underfunded," Ms Bressington said.

"I have been told from a reliable source that the interstate doctors have a reputation for being pro-WorkCover and I will be asking the minister (Industrial Relations Minister Paul Holloway) to do a review of their medical reports to confirm or deny this."

Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson, founder of the Work Injured Resource Connection, said she knew of an injured worker who was assessed in March by an orthopaedic surgeon based in southern Queensland.

"If (the surgeon) flew down ... it would take at least five hours travelling time, at a cost of $2200, so you have to question why a local orthopaedic surgeon couldn't be found to do the job," she said.
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