In a 12 month pilot program, traumatised first responders, including police officers, ambulance officers and firefighters, will be provided with early assistance and psychological treatment while their formal WorkCover claims are considered.
Under the previous system, an injured first responder must complete a WorkCover claim form and serve a copy on the responsible government department. The department then would provide it to their insurer, who can take up to 28 days from receiving the claim to make a determination regarding whether to provide assistance or not. During that time, the insurer can arrange for the injured worker to see an independent psychiatrist and may also engage a private investigator to verify the worker's description of the circumstances of their injury.
Not only are these intervening steps distressing in themselves but unfortunately also often means that treatment is delayed in the very early days of a worker's injury. Such delay can cost the worker a vital opportunity for early intervention and potentially set back an injured worker's recovery by weeks or even months.
The pilot program, announced by the Victorian Government, was developed in response to the survey conducted by Beyond Blue, Answering the Call, which found the rates of psychological injury and distress amongst emergency services workers to be as high as 1 in 3.
Under this program a psychiatrically injured first responder can seek payment for medical expenses including medication costs and consultations with their treating general practitioner, psychologist and psychiatrist while their WorkCover claim is being processed by their employer's insurance company.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Lisa Neville noted that, access to provisional payments through early intervention will encourage people to put their hand up for help when they're struggling, knowing that they'll get the support they need, when they need it.
The pilot program became available to members of Victoria Police and Ambulance Victoria on 17 June 2019. The second stage of the program, rolled out on 1 July 2019, extends to CFA and SES staff and volunteers, forest firefighters, public sector nurses and midwives, and MFB, ESTA, child protection, corrections and youth justice staff.
Sustaining an injury at work, whether of a physical or psychological nature, can be a distressing and emotional time for both the injured worker and their family, and it's important to get access to treatment as soon as possible to minimise your risk of permanent consequences.
If you or someone you know has suffered an injury at work, we invite you to speak to one of our personal injury law experts on (03) 9321 9988 for further advice on what assistance you might be able to access.