Decision puts the 'om' into compo

The federal government workers' compensation fund has been ordered to pay for group meditation classes for a former Canberra public servant who has not worked in 14 years.

Workplace insurer Comcare must also pay for taxis for Eleanor Rope from her farm outside the capital to a "mindfulness" course in the city's south, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has ruled.

Ms Rope is a former Education Department worker with an "extensive" taxpayer-funded treatment regime including psychological counselling, massage therapy, specialist reviews, household help and pharmaceuticals.

An earlier tribunal decision forced Comcare to fly Ms Rope from Canberra to North Queensland for psychoneuroimmunology, a little known complementary medicine technique that was not available in the capital.

Ms Rope is being compensated for neck injuries sustained in a car crash in 1987 and for another neck injury suffered in 1994.

She left her job as a child health co-ordinator with the old Department of Education and Community Services on invalidity grounds in 1999 with Comcare accepting liability a year later for another ''psychiatric" condition.


In 2003 the tribunal found it was "reasonable" for Ms Rope to be regularly flown to Townsville to receive the psychoneuroimmunology treatment at Comcare's expense after one of her doctors recommended that she receive the treatment up to five times a year.

In April 2012, Ms Rope asked Comcare to pay for a course in mindfulness at the Canberra School of Practical Philosophy and for transport to and from her classes. When her request for transport expenses and $110 for the course was rejected by the insurer, the former public servant took her case to the tribunal.

Comcare argued before the appeals tribunal that Ms Rope's practical philosophy course had not reduced her reliance on other therapies, that the mindfulness classes were not real medical treatment and it was unreasonable for the insurer to be asked to pay.

But one of Ms Rope's doctors, Linda Welberry, argued that the course would have a therapeutic benefit and help her patient with depression, an accepted "compensable condition".

The GP also pointed out that Ms Rope was intolerant of anti-depressants and no longer undergoing psychoneuroimmunology because the Townsville-based practitioner had left the country.

Tribunal member Simon Webb decided that the meditation classes fell under the legal definition of treatment and overturned Comcare's decision to not pay for the course.

"Mrs Rope is entitled to compensation in respect of the costs of attending mindfulness classes as directed by her treating doctor and supported by her psychologist, being medical treatment that it is reasonable for her to obtain in relation to her accepted injury," Mr Webb wrote in his decision.

The case is the latest legal setback for Comcare, which goes to court on Friday in Sydney to appeal a decision awarding compensation to another bureaucrat injured while having sex on a work trip.

The workers' compensation scheme is set for sweeping reforms after a review by the federal government aimed at reining in the spiralling cost to the taxpayer of public sector injury claims.


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