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Ontario psychologists claim WSIB unfairly denying patient claims

Psychologists are concerned that their patients are being denied workers' compensation, and say their recommendations that their patients stay off work are being overruled.

Controversy around compensation claims started in Sudbury

A group of psychologists and labour advocates will be calling on the Ontario provincial government Thursday to restore benefits for injured workers. They argue that the treating doctors' recommendations are being overruled by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

A group of Ontario psychologists say their patients are being unfairly denied workers' compensation.

They say that the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario (WSIB) has been cutting workers' compensation claims in order to pay off its deficit. To do that, the psychologists say the board is getting other doctors to overrule their conclusions about their patients' fitness to return to work. 

The psychologists are holding a news conference at Queen's Park on Thursday, calling on WSIB to restore benefits for injured workers.

Laurie Hardwick, director of Organization Services for the Ontario Federation of Labour, said that in early July, a Sudbury psychologist told her that he and four of his colleagues were distressed by how the WSIB was treating their patients. He claimed the board was ignoring the doctors' recommendations for treatment. He claimed WSIB had a board doctor review patient files that he had already diagnosed. The board doctors told injured workers to return to work, and that they'd lose their benefits in a week.

'Unable to cope'

According to Hardwick, some workers became suicidal. 

"From an emotional perspective, there is a big impact," he said. "They are unable to cope — their family is affected, their self-esteem gets eroded."

Since then, she said she has heard from 20 psychologists with the same concerns about the WSIB.

But the WSIB, she said, claims it has not received any such complaints.

Dr Giorgio Ilacqua, a psychologist based in North York who works with injured workers, is also speaking up. 

When Ilacqua started practicing, he said going to the WSIB was an easier process.

These people need help in a short time, not to wait for red tape in order to get coverage.- Dr Giorgio Ilacqua, psychologist

"All you had to do was submit a couple of forms," he said. But after the 1990s, it became difficult for injured workers to get approved.

Now he worries it is even worse.

"These people need help in a short time, not to wait for red tape in order to get coverage," he said.

Hardwick said the results can be catastrophic for the province. She said when workers don't get benefits, they end up in the public health-care system. She said this overwhelms our health-care system, and they end up on financial assistance.

"So, the taxpayers are paying for worker injuries, not the workplaces where they were injured. It's the unfunded liability causing this," she said.

'Leaders in helping injured workers'

The WSIB said in a statement that it is among the best programs in the country at returning injured employees to work. 

It said that 92 per cent of all workers in Ontario who have been injured and lost time from their jobs are safely back to work within one year of their injury at full wages.

"This is among the best results for any jurisdiction in Canada and places Ontario among the leaders in helping injured workers recover and return to work," the statement said.

On Thursday, Hardwick and a group of psychologists will release a report outlining the problems and solutions they're suggesting. In the report, they lay out four stories that the psychologists gave them to highlight the problems they're seeing.

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