A medical specialist in Cape Breton says dealing with the Workers' Compensation Board is "appallingly disturbing."

Dr. Irene Campbell-Taylor, a semi-retired clinical neurologist, says the WCB sometimes coerces workers into treatments recommended by its own doctors who have never seen the patient.

"There's no question in my mind that far more weight is given to the physicians who are either employed directly by the board or who are brought in for opinions," she says.

Campbell-Taylor says injured workers are not allowed to refuse treatments recommended by the board.

"Now if you do that then you will probably find that Section 84 of the act was invoked which says, if you don't do what we tell you, what we think is medically appropriate — which is amazing from an insurance company, which isn't a medical entity — then we'll cut off  your compensation," she says.

She also says the WCB has refused to pay for medication prescribed by the treating doctor.

Workers' Compensation says it does not cover medications if it judges them not related to the workplace injury.

The WCB also said its primary role is to approve treatment recommended by healthcare providers. It does not say whether those are its own doctors, or those of the injured worker.

"I have to say it’s been appallingly disturbing," Campbell-Taylor says of the system.

Vera Petrie, of New Waterford, lost her husband two years ago. He was a miner and a welder. When his lungs started to fail, they went to the WCB.

"And they said he had silicosos. At that time 60 per cent. Three years later, they put him on 80 per cent. It just kept getting worse," she says.

Silicosis is a form of occupational lung disease, according to the Canadian Public Health Association, that happens when people inhale particles into their lungs. 

The WCB refused Petrie survivor benefits, even though her husband was receiving compensation when he died. 

According to a statement issued by the WCB, some workers may have been affected by a workplace disease in life that didn’t make a meaningful contribution to their death. 

Petrie says a medical examiner listed his probable cause of death as silicosis.