The New Brunswick government is planning a comprehensive review of the workers’ compensation system, weeks after doctors and injured workers criticized WorkSafeNB.
Labour Minister Danny Soucy announced the review on Friday and said the goal is to ensure injured workers are properly compensated and employers can afford the premiums.
Soucy said recent meetings between his department and WorkSafeNB led to decision to update the law.
"The legislation governing workers’ compensation in New Brunswick has not undergone a substantial revision in over two decades," Soucy said in the legislature.
"We believe, therefore, that a review of the governing legislation is important and warranted at this time."
The review will be led by Tom Mann, the deputy minister of labour, and Gerard Adams, the president and chief executive officer of WorkSafeNB.
The review will be conducted in stages with the goal of having necessary legislative changes introduced in spring 2014.
The review will examine:
- any previous recommendations
- the governance of WorkSafeNB and the Appeals Tribunal
- the claims and appeals processes
- the dispute resolution processes
- benefit payments and practices
- the relationship between legislation and WorkSafeNB policy
Independent investigation needed
Liberal MLA Chris Collins said it is time for WorkSafeNB to be reviewed, but he said the provincial government made a mistake.
Collins said the review should be independent of the government and WorkSafeNB.
The review comes after a series of complaints over WorkSafeNB’s policies.
A Plaster Rock doctor came forward in February to say he was upset WorkSafeNB officials were regularly ignoring his advice for injured patients.
Dr. Barry Wecker, who has practised medicine for 26 years in the Plaster Rock area, said he gets about 10 cases a year that seem to be rejected by WorkSafeNB for no understandable reason.
Further, Dr. Richard Dumais, a senior pain specialist at the Dr.-Georges-L-Dumont University Hospital, said he now refuses to see injured workers because he says they stand no chance of getting their treatments approved by WorkSafeNB.
Soucy acknowledged the recent complaints in his statement in the legislature.
"In recent months, many concerns have been raised over the administration of injured workers’ claims. I look forward to getting under way with this unique opportunity to examine and improve the workers’ compensation system for the benefit of all New Brunswickers," he said.