Victorian public sector nurses and midwives will be able, after 1 July, to access provisional payments towards their mental health treatment costs, for work-related injuries, as soon as they file a WorkCover claim.
The arrangement is part of a 12-month pilot program designed to ensure emergency responders and health workers get the appropriate mental health care they need as swiftly as possible.
Under the existing system, a worker may encounter delays of up to 38 days before their claim for mental health-related costs is accepted or rejected. That delay can deter some workers from seeking assistance at what is often the most critical period – soon after the trauma or mental health injury is incurred or manifests.
The Andrews Government’s pilot program ensures nurses and midwives can be have their reasonable medical and ‘like’ expenses, such as rehabilitation or therapy, honoured from the day they lodge a claim with WorkCover.
Nurses and midwives making a mental health WorkCover claim after July 1 will be eligible for up to 13 weeks of treatment costs, irrespective of whether their claim is ultimately accepted or rejected.
The ANMF (Vic Branch) urges all nurses and midwives to ensure that, when making a mental health-related WorkCover claim, their employer has included them in the pilot program to access provisional payments immediately for mental health treatment.
The new program, a pre-election promise by the Andrews Government, radically reverses the need for workers to prove from the outset that their mental health concerns arise from conditions in the workplace. Instead, it ensures the injury or illness is treated as a priority and expenses are met regardless, while the link to workplace is eventually determined.
If the worker’s claim is accepted, he or she will be covered for as long as the claim is valid – as long as required. If their claim is rejected, following the 13 weeks, the worker will still be able to access their full quota of up to 10 consultations a year under the federal government’s mental health plan.
It is important to note, however, that the program only honours reasonable medical and other related expenses; it does not cover workers’ wages or payments. A percentage of weekly wages may be met, as usual, after the WorkCover claim is formally accepted.
The pilot program is also open to emergency responders and front-line public sector employees such as police, firefighters, State Emergency Service workers, emergency call staff, prisons employees and officers working in the child protection sector. It is intended to be rolled out to all Victorian workers, including nurses, midwives and personal care workers not covered by the pilot, in 2020, should the pilot be successful.
If the pilot is successful and expanded, ANMF will be advocating for the inclusion of weekly compensation payments for time off work.