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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.

34 comments

  • Please tell me that this is a joke. If it's not then I'm all for getting rid of the public service.

    Commenter
    pg
    Date and time
    May 10, 2013, 9:12AM
    • Its all the Doctors, Lawyers who are the ones that massage the system for all its worth..

      Commenter
      Barry
      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 10:02AM
    • It's these types of ridiculous, excessive claims that are resulting in all state govt having to look at legislating to reduce the availability of work cover to stop the blowouts that are inevitable because of garbage like this.

      Commenter
      brian
      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 10:41AM
    • The problem isnt the public service. The rules are the rules. Yes, doctors and lawyers are well versed in maximising the value of those rules - but that is what they are paid to do. Its not up to a lawyer to make a call on whether something that is legal is 'moral'; indeed failing to give that info to a client is malpractice.

      There is a need to change the rules. Go talk to the people who make the rules (ie the politicians)

      Commenter
      asdf
      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 11:22AM
    • Get rid of both Comcare and the appeals tribunal! Remeber when Canberra public servants had the highest incidence of RSI in the country? Not many people get RSI now that there's little money in it.

      Commenter
      Emmie
      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 11:24AM
    • This is why you pay your tax... I mean the real services Education , Health ,Police are funded by the states and GST / stamp duty.

      I would add being wealth would help depression as show by studies that wealthier people are happier does that mean the insurer needs to give 10M ?

      Rely on yourself its not the government you greedy effete people , i got stabbed 9 times in a robbery and did not claim from the stupid vitims compensation fund.

      Commenter
      Ben
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 11:48AM
  • Oh how I wish I had sustained my physical and physiological problems as a public servant, instead of as a child of a violent parent and the bad luck of bad genes. All the people involved in making these decisions are a joke and obviously have no idea of reality and what the rest of us in the real world have to cope with. Except they are all making lots of money from people like this dragging their "problems" back and forward to court. I could do with 6 trips a year to Townsville instead all I have been offered is a haphazard few visits to doctors through the Medicare system and been apologized to as there is no funding for programs that would help people like me. Public service jobs on the whole are pretty cushy yet the number of compensation cases is enormous. Why?

    Commenter
    Real damage
    Date and time
    May 10, 2013, 10:36AM
    • From long experience the treating GPs alleged recommendations are usually just taking the easy course of supporting what the patient wants to do. Travel allowances generally exceed the actual cost of travel and frequent visits can be quite profitable to claimant and "therapist" alike. Treatment costs under workers compensation regimes should be passed back to Medicare, with insurers paying a levy to cover this.

      Commenter
      sinic
      Location
      Cessnock
      Date and time
      May 10, 2013, 10:53AM
      • News today is we need to work until 70. It's too expensive for the government for me to retire, apparently.

        I can see why.

        Time to become a public servant and milk it for all it's worth.

        Commenter
        Evanism
        Date and time
        May 10, 2013, 11:00AM
        • You should stay where you are. Comcare stats are 8.8 injury claims per 1000 Full time equivalent employees in 2011-2012. Across the country, 12.3 per 1000 FTEE. This sort of stupid rorting annoys me as much as anyone, but some perspective would be nice.

          LOL, just kidding. This is the comments section! Its the Gen Y asylum seekers what did it! Send them to jail!

          Commenter
          Dregs
          Date and time
          May 10, 2013, 4:32PM

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