Slater and Gordon has welcomed the Andrews Government’s groundbreaking pledge to provide Victorian police, firefighters, paramedics, protective service officers and SES workers with automatic mental health treatment and support as part of a 12-month pilot.
The changes, which will be delivered by the Government – if re-elected in November – include a commitment to introduce legislation within two years for the acceptance of medical and like mental health treatment payments for every Victorian worker.
Senior Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Meghan Hoare said the law firm had recently seen a higher incidence of mental health claims, which put workers through a rigorous process, often including multiple psychiatric examinations, to ensure they meet pre-determined benchmarks.
“Commonly, this protracted process can exacerbate workers’ mental injuries and delay recovery and their return to work, which is highly regrettable,” Ms Hoare said.
Ms Hoare said many emergency workers presented with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as panic disorders, depression and anxiety as a result of their jobs and were often away from work for longer because they were unable to access appropriate medical care quickly and easily.
She said the pledge to commit to a pilot program such as this was an important advance in ensuring there was appropriate psychological and medical support in place for Victorian emergency workers and was in line with community expectations.
“Emergency service employees are frequently and inevitably confronted with often violent and distressing events in the course of their respective professions,” Ms Hoare said.
“The right to access critical psychological and psychiatric support in the onset of the mental illness is a welcome development for these workers.
“This will provide an appropriate support as they focus on recovery and return to work pending the acceptance of their claims.
“These workers should not have to wait for their WorkCover claims to be accepted before they can access financial support to cover the cost of these medical expenses.”
Ms Hoare said trauma manifested in individuals in different ways and as a result each worker needs to be treated differently.
“Ensuring that workers do not have to jump through hoops to prove they are suffering from work-related stress is an important step in ensuring they receive the best possible medical support they deserve,” Ms Hoare said.
“This is an important proactive step that will help workers as quickly as possible and ensure they can return to work faster, if they have received the appropriate care.”
Ms Hoare also said the proposed Centre of Excellence for Emergency Worker Mental Health would also assist mental health professionals in treating the specific needs of emergency services staff.