Tag Archives: WCB

Going Postal Over Workers Compensation

“Going postal” became part of our culture’s vernacular after several instances of US postal workers killing coworkers in fits of rage. From Wikipedia we have:

It derives from a series of incidents from 1983 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public. Between 1986 and 1997, more than 40 people were killed in at least 20 incidents of workplace rage. The phrase has been applied to murders committed by employees in acts of workplace rage, irrespective of the employer. It’s generally used to describe fits of rage, though not necessarily at the level of murder, in or outside the workplace.

So when a workers compensation claimant took people hostage this week at the local Workers Compensation Board in Edmonton it was a bit like going postal, although he wasn’t an employee. There is mixed information on Patrick Clayton’s background and it seems he was using drugs on top of it all, but we don’t know if he ended up doing drugs because of how Workers Comp treated him or if he had a pre-existing drug problem before his injury.

Clayton might not be the best example of the frustration people feel at workers compensations boards across the country, but he is in the spotlight because of it regardless. It’s interesting that Alberta’s premier’s first concern was looking at security in government buildings and not looking at what in WCB’s policiies drives people to such desperation.

I’ve outlined my own earlier interaction with WCB in another post. But let’s say there are many many people who have felt frustration, fear and hopelessness as they have been denied their claims or cut off prematurely. I wonder what the statistics are of people who have killed themselves over claim denials or people who continue their lives in pain because of such limitations through WCB.

Some people will claim that for every one legitimate claimant there are ten faked claims (some of the many many comments on CBC’s news article listed below), when it is more like the other way around. I’ve had a nephew whose truck was hit by a train when the truck stalled on the tracks. The truck’s maintenance was the responsibility of the company my nephew worked for and they had ignored the problem. However WCB cut my nephew off after a month or so, even though his shoulder was still screwed up.

This is a common statement for people with claims. If they are not outright denied, their claims are often cut very short. WCB seems to think that all people should heal at the same rate. Every knee injury or back injury is exactly the same as the one before and therefore a person should be back to work in X weeks. When that person responds slower than this ideal list, WCB says goodbye. They pretty much make claimants feel ike cheaters, liars and fakers, and it’s guilty until proven innocent.

As I mentioned previously WCB in BC is called WorkSafe BC and I can’t help but believe the name change is partly because they realized they weren’t compensating workers. Sure there are some claimants who try to get a free ride, and sure there are claimants whose compensation is approved. The first time I had to claim was for a repetitive stress injury to my hands. WCB paid for the physio but again when I wasn’t better within the allotted time it was sorry, no more help. I had to work around the injury and lost a job opportunity because of it.

Any doctor worth their salt could tell you that physiology from one person to the next may be similar but there are numerous factor that can contribute to rehabilitation and healing and much of it not in the patient’s control. There are genetic predispositions, underlying conditions and the vast mystery of how the body works. People don’t respond the same or at the same rate. Would that we could, then it would be cut and dried in fixing people. Everyone into physio and out healed and whole in six weeks.

People lose their livelihoods, their way of life and their physical and mental health when cut off by WCB. They’re often not given anyway to adapt, no explanation other than you should be better and the attitude, whether meant that way or not, comes across as cold and uncaring. My own case had someone taking notes for the vacation case worker talk to me but the actual case worker never actually every talked to me, and just sent a letter of denial. How can a person feel other than ignored and dismissed summarily.

Taking innocent people hostage was not right at all, and could have easily been me or friends or family. But if nothing else, maybe this will bring light to the fact that WCB practices are not seen as fair or just from many people. WorkSafe BC probably did the right thing in changing their name and I think that WCBs across the country should evaluate their mandate. If they’re not their to help the worker then they need to let people know that and change the name.

 http://www.cbc.ca/canada/edmonton/story/2009/10/22/edmonton-charges-hostage-incident.html#socialcomments

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Workers Compensation: A Fallacy

There are probably many people reading this who know someone or have themselves experienced a workplace injury and WCB’s attitude toward compensating the worker. In fact, the Workers Compensation Board changed their name to WorkSafe BC, to reflect the greater scope of their reach and because they’re known for not compensating workers, or cutting compensation off arbitrarily.

This could all be hearsay but I do have direct experience. I have had to file twice in my life. The first time was for a repetitive stress injury to the soft tissue of my hand (my fingers and hand swelled) due to writing so much in quintuplicate for the movie industry (with one period that consisted of about 30 hours straight). In this first case, WCB did cover treatments but only until they thought I should be better. A known fact about the human body is that people heal at different rates and many other factors come into play. So I had to somehow manage to get better, without affording the therapy while still working.

The second time was perhaps harder to pinpoint but indicates the arbitrary decision making of case workers. I was working inside underneath three air conditioner vents. I have a couple of conditions, the major one being chronic myofascial pain syndrome (MFS). It is similar to fibromyalgia but more treatable. I can be fine for a long time and then experience a relapse brought on by certain conditions. Then I will proceed into a chronic pain cycle, which can take years to get hrough. I can function but am often in pain all the time.

Myofascial pain can be triggered by various events, some of which are: stress, cold, injury. This means, at the onset a person can try to work through the pain with exercise, which can backfire, causing more trigger point cascades. A trigger point is an area on the body that when pressed refers pain to other areas. People with myofascial pain and fibromyalgia have specific spots on their bodies which will be major trigger points. Each person may not demonstrate pain in all of them but may in most of them. A trigger point is often a hard knot. I’m not a medical expert but from what I’ve read it involves muscle tissue and fascia (the thin membrane that covers muscles [like you see on chicken]). A trigger point cascade can occur where one trigger point starts a progression of spasms and knotting that create other trigger points.

At my worst, I was trying to work out and increased the problem unknowingly. I had trigger point cascades down my arms and back, to the point where I could barely hold a fork or chew. That was an extreme episode that I don’t wish to visit again. Overall, my muscles will spasm and knot up and will forget how to release. I had ten years of chronic pain before the combination of the right muscle relaxant (many painkillers and analgesics don’t always work on this type of pain), a massage therapist who understood how to work with trigger points, and about four months of very warm weather which took me out of the chronic stage.

As I’ve mentioned, stress, injury or cold can trigger myofascial pain. Other conditions can be associated with it, such as Reynaud’s syndrome. Reynaud’s is also called red, white and blue because it will be brought on by cold and the vessels in the extremities (fingers and toes) will constrict, causing the limbs to go from red to white to blue as the blood flow is suppressed. People with this condition will experience sharp, knifelike pain and numbness. I have found, when I experience Reynauds, that the only way to bring circulation back to the extremities is to bring up my core temperature.

I have given these two examples here to wind back to workers compensation. The three air conditioner vents that I was sitting under blew a lot of cold air onto my back. I’m more susceptible to cold, but was the only person in my area who was under three vents (no one was under more than one). Because the muscles tightened up, when I moved suddenly, sitting at my desk, I threw out my back. I was a contract worker so I couldn’t really take time off but I filed a claim. I went to the chiropractor a couple of times but couldn’t afford more than that.

Recognizing that this could be another chronic pain onset, I wanted WCB to cover therapy for a couple of weeks. In all, if I had had treatment right away I could have put off the chronic pain. It would have taken probably a month at most, consisting of chiropractic to adjust my back, and massage to keep the muscles from tightening up and pulling my back out again (believe me, I live with this often, muscles pulling my ribs out while I sleep).

My case worker was on holidays so I talked to someone else first. When the case worker came back, he didn’t even talk to me but denied the claim straight out. I wrote back citing the specialist that had originally diagnosed me. I was willing to be examined, get letters from the specialists about the condition and other documentation if needed. I said that the cold of the air conditioning was the problem and the case worker wrote back and said that cold never hurt anyone. Never. Cold.

I wonder what those people feel who suffer frostbite and hypothermia and die of exposure? One of the best ways to get through myofascial pain is to apply heat, along with therapy. This case worker didn’t consult any medical expert but made his own uninformed arbitrary decision. I would have had to go to a new level to fight this, to get the therapy that was now some time from the onset of the injury. And what else causes myofascial pain? Stress. Having already taken ICBC (our provincial car insurance company) to small claims court for not covering the therapy costs of the injury that originally began my relationship with myofascial pain, I knew how stressful that process was (I won, BTW). I didn’t do it and have spent several years getting out of another bout of chronic pain. And of course all the subsequent visits to my doctor for muscle relaxants (trying to find some that work), the few visits to the therapists, and days I take off work when the pain is too much, or for doctor appointments puts more strain on our health care and system. In the long run, it costs way more than what the initial treatments would have been.

This is just one example of how workers compensation is a fallacy. I have heard far worse stories. And I have only touched the tip of the iceberg on what myofascial pain is all about. It is a more accepted condition these days, very hard to diagnose and many doctors pooh pooh it still.  Wikipedia has a very short entry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myofascial_pain_syndrome  And should you have a workplace injury that brings on this condition, you can expect workers compensation to not compensate, to not help you get better, and like many other injured workers, leave you out in the cold.

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