Premier Paul Davis says changes made to improve the workers compensation appeal process haven’t had their intended effect, and a “comprehensive” review of the law and system is needed including possible changes to extend the 60-day time limit for decisions.

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“We have to find a better way to do that business,” Davis said.

“The efforts that we’ve made clearly are simply not working. So we have to get to work on that.”

'The efforts that we’ve made clearly are simply not working. So we have to get to work on that.' - Premier Paul Davis

The premier’s comments come in the wake of a CBC News investigation into workers compensation appeal delays.

“What’s come to light in the last week or so is that the changes that we made haven’t had the impact that should occur,” Davis said.

By law, appeals are supposed to be completed within 60 days of landing at the Workplace, Health, Safety and Compensation Review Division (WHSCRD).

'Just not functionally working'

“We really know that that’s not possible,” the premier said.

Davis said the legislation on the appeal process is “just not functionally working.”

Workers compensation review division NL building CBC

The Workplace, Health, Safety and Compensation Review Division (WHSCRD) handles appeals filed by employers and injured workers. (CBC)

Last year, the province added a full-time chief review commissioner, to address a backlog of cases.

“We need to look at the legislation,” the premier said. “We need to look at how the review division is operating, to find a way, so that it looks after and takes care of the interests of injured workers who wish to file an appeal, in a way that’s as quick as possible and is meaningful and important. It has to be dealt with in a very comprehensive way.”

Instead of the 60-day time frame mandated by the law, decisions are averaging between six and seven months, according to the WHSCRD.

That’s largely because of delays in convening hearings.

According to a CBC News analysis of WHSCRD data, the 60-day deadline is being met roughly half the time from the date of the hearing to the decision.

'Systemic issue'

Davis says Justice Minister Judy Manning is being unfairly blamed for overall "systemic" issues in the appeals process.

"What is unfortunate in this matter is that these systemic problems with the review division seem to be falling at the feet of Minister Manning," Davis said.

A CBC investigation found that Manning filed no final reports on the 19 files she was assigned during her five months as part-time review commissioner.

“It’s a systemic issue within the division,” Davis said.

“It’s not the fault of any particular review commissioner.”