e-bulletin No. 109 - September 2020
In e-Bulletin No 106, I advised of my decision to recommence in-person medical assessments from 20 July 2020 due to the low incidence of new COVID-19 cases by community transmission. Despite the recommencement of in-person assessments, the Commission has continued the interim procedure of referring all medical disputes to an Arbitrator for teleconference, to explore settlement prospects or whether the assessment may proceed by video.
Given the continued low incidence of community transmission and the positive feedback about the in-person assessment process, I have decided to dispense with the requirement for medical disputes to first be referred for teleconference. Medical disputes lodged in the Commission from 21 September 2020 (where liability is not in issue) will be referred direct to an AMS for in-person assessment, except for psychiatric and psychological disorders (discussed later in this bulletin). In the interests of health and safety, the Commission will continue to provide all workers attending in-person medical assessments with a protective face mask and hand sanitiser.
The two-part process for in-person assessments still applies, namely, a pre-examination conference followed by an in-person physical examination. A medical assessment may be exempt from the pre-examination conference if it is necessary for the AMS to conduct the full assessment with the worker in-person. This may arise in cases where the worker would have difficulty participating in the pre-examination conference by telephone or video, such as in the case of a worker with a traumatic brain injury.
In medical disputes involving psychiatric or psychological disorders, the Commission will arrange for assessments to be conducted by video unless advised by the worker or legal representative that the worker is unable to participate by video. The inability to participate by video will usually be due to the worker not having access to a smartphone or other adequate device (laptop or desktop computer) or being unable to use the device.
The protocol document (Protocols for Medical Assessments During Coronavirus Pandemic) has been updated to reflect the above changes to practice and procedure.
The Commission continues to monitor the COVID-19 risk profile in NSW and will take appropriate steps as required. These revised arrangements are subject to change at short notice.
Judge Gerard Phillips