$3000 for a psychiatric session paid by Comcare

Injured public servants are being sent to one-off psychiatric consults costing up to $3000 paid for by Comcare.

It comes as the federal government workplace insurer introduces a new system to encourage hurt bureaucrats back to work sooner to reduce the massive burden of compensation claims on the public purse. 

One former bureaucrat sent Fairfax Media a receipt saying a one-hour medical assessment in April, by a psychiatrist who later produced a 35-page report, cost $3080.

The outsourced psychiatrist was a trained assessor of permanent impairment for Comcare who had done hundreds of examinations in the past couple of years.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists has not yet commented on the cost but a Comcare spokeswoman said psychiatric medico-legal assessments were charged at a higher rate than physical injury examinations. 


"The cost of a medico-legal assessment is also subject to GST, which in the case referred to, is included within the total cost indicated," the spokeswoman said.

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The spokeswoman said costs varied and depended on how much paperwork needed to be read about the patient's medical history. 

"While a medical specialist may only need to spend one hour with an employee, they may often have to spend considerable time reviewing background material, drafting and completing reports," she said. 

"The background material reviewed by the medical specialist examiner may include previous medico-legal reports, relevant reports from treating practitioners, relevant records from current and/or previous compensation claims and in some cases, reviewing relevant clinical or hospital admission records."

Comcare is launching a new approach to the management of compensation claims so the organisation can respond more quickly to federal public servants who have lodged high-impact claims.

Figures used by Comcare show an extra 6 weeks absence from work by an injured staff member can massively reduce the chances they will ever return to work.

If an employee had 20 days off work there was a 70 per cent likelihood they would return to their job.

If the person was absent for 45 days, they was a 50 per cent likelihood of coming back.

And if the staff member was away for 70 days - just 6 weeks longer than the person who had 20 days off - their chance of returning to their desk was just 35 per cent. 

"Comcare’s enhanced claims management model will allow us to screen new claims and actively support injured workers to return to work and health as timely as possible," the spokeswoman said.

"We will do this by responding quickly to the needs of injured workers and their employers, developing individualised recovery plans to help injured workers recover with support and assisting injured workers with a safe and timely return to work and return to health."

As reported last October, taxpayers were left with a bill for one year of nearly $100 million as the cost of public service workers' compensation claims continued to climb.

The $98 million loss outlined in its last annual report was blamed on more psychological claims in public service workplaces and injured bureaucrats staying off work longer.