e-bulletin No. 106 - June 2020
Recommencement of in-person medical assessments
The Commission ceased in-person medical assessments on 25 March 2020, except in urgent cases. The Commission has since that time explored the resolution of medical disputes by telephone conferences and video conferences. However, many medical disputes can only be resolved by an in-person (hands-on) examination. Those matters have been placed in a ‘medical assessment pending list’ awaiting resumption of in-person assessments.
Given the low incidence of new cases of COVID-19 by community transmission, I have determined that in-person assessments may recommence from 20 July 2020.
I am mindful that the pandemic continues and, regardless of safety measures imposed, there remains a risk to the health of individuals to attend examinations. I reserve the right to once again suspend in-person examinations, or to increase conditions on their use, should the situation with the pandemic deteriorate.
Matters in the ‘medical assessment pending list’ will be listed for in-person assessment only if requested by the parties. Commission staff will contact parties whose matters have been referred to the ‘medical assessment pending list’ to ascertain whether the matter can proceed to an in-person assessment. Scheduling of examinations will be staggered over the coming weeks as we work through the backlog of cases.
A comprehensive protocol document has been prepared (Protocols for Medical Assessments During Coronavirus Pandemic), in consultation with Approved Medical Specialists, Government experts and stakeholders. The protocol document sets out the Commission’s expectations and protocols for conducting and participating in medical assessments, both in-person and by video.
The main points to note about medical assessments for Commission matters during the coronavirus pandemic are:
- All medical disputes will continue to be referred for teleconference with an Arbitrator before referral for medical assessment;
- Video assessments will be preferred to in-person assessments wherever possible;
- In-person assessments will only be conducted where other options are not appropriate;
- In-person assessments will only be arranged on request;
- A pre-examination assessment will be undertaken on the day prior to the in-person assessment, to minimise the time at the in-person assessment;
- Any worker who has flu-like symptoms will not be examined.
The continuation of in-person medical assessments will remain subject to the advice received, the ongoing incidence of COVID-19 cases, and the deemed risk to workers, doctors and their staff.
The past few months have posed many challenges for the Commission, the parties and legal representatives. I wish to express my sincere thanks for the professional manner in which all stakeholders have acted to ensure the Commission continues to deliver its services in an effective and timely manner
Judge Gerard Phillips