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Stop WCB claims suppression

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Dear Editor:

On March 28, 2014, the Workers Compensation Board released Claim Suppression in the Manitoba Workers Compensation System.

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This report identified that claim suppression exists in Manitoba and may be skewing the overall representation of how safe workplaces really are. Under-claiming, misreporting and soft claim suppression were identified in over 30 per cent of the cases that were reviewed.

The report also suggested employers do not even believe the problem exists, thanks in part to the many policies and best practices they employ. They stated claim suppression is really only a problem with smaller employers.

We know this is not accurate and the problem does exist within health-care settings. The use of third-party employer consultants to aggressively challenge accepted or potential claims contributes to the intimidation, discouraging nurses from filing WCB claims. Incentives within the workplace to advertise the number of days without time-loss injuries, aggressive return to work plans and complicated or lack of clear reporting processes within workplaces all represent forms of soft claim suppression. Nurses often would rather access alternate benefit plans than have to defend themselves because they were injured at work.

Although we commend the WCB for looking at these concerns, we do not believe the initiatives set out by the board go far enough to address the problem of claim suppression. There has not been one conviction or administrative penalty imposed on any employer despite evidence of this occurring. Even if administrative penalties are increased, many employers will only see this as the "cost of doing business." This will not incentivize employers to provide safer workplaces. Public awareness and outreach to vulnerable workers will not impact those employers who remain focused on cost containment. These employers will continue to be concerned with the number, length and cost of claims as that is what determines their premiums. Claim suppression will continue to be a problem.

What has happened is we have fallen away from the true purpose and intent of a workers compensation model. The system was set up to provide fair compensation to workers for injuries sustained in the workplace in exchange for employers avoiding lengthy and costly litigation suits. The intent of the premiums set by the WCB was to ensure a fully funded plan and not an opportunity for employers to manipulate their costs. The WCB needs to make significant changes to the assessment rate-setting model and increase accountability of employers so they will not be enticed to focus on cost containment but rather focus on prevention and appropriate rehabilitation and return to work.

Sandi Mowat

President

Manitoba Nurses Union

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2014 A9

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