Nfld. & Labrador

Injured worker desperate for accessible van: Workers' Comp denying request

A Bay Bulls man who was disabled in a workplace accident is desperate to get a wheelchair accessible vehicle that meets his medical needs, but he says Workers Compensation is refusing to help him.
Pat Dunphy lies in his hospital bed this week. Dunphy uses a wheelchair due to a workplace accident twenty years ago. He and his wife are battling Workers' Compensation for a wheelchair accessible vehicle (CBC)

A Bay Bulls man, who was disabled in a workplace accident, is desperate to get a wheelchair accessible vehicle that meets his medical needs, but he says Workers' Compensation is refusing to help him.

Pat Dunphy, 53, was left a partial paraplegic after an accident at the Hibernia GBS site twenty years ago and needs a specialized electric wheelchair to get around.

"I can only move to a certain amount. I got rods in my neck, got a fusion done. I'm after having that many falls, it's unreal," Dunphy said from his hospital bed. He's currently being treated for a number of problems related to his condition.

Dunphy lives at home most of the time, but without a vehicle that meets his needs, he says he's basically a prisoner under his own roof.

"I have no quality of life. Anyone at all that's stuck into the house 24/7 haven't got the quality of life. I got two rooms I use. I get to the bedroom or the living room. That's where I'm to 24/7." 

Dunphy and his wife Kim have been battling Workers' Compensation for a van that meets his medical needs and has the proper equipment to safely tether his wheelchair.

But the Dunphys say so far Workers' Comp has refused because it said there are wheelchair accessible taxis in the Bay Bulls area that Dunphy can use.

However, Kim Dunphy says the taxi doesn't have the equipment to properly secure her husband's wheelchair. She says sudden jolts could result in further spinal cord damage, and could also stop his breathing — threatening his life.

"It doesn't meet his needs, his needs are specific...he needs to be in a vehicle that is specifically designed to fit his chair, which the chair itself is specifically designed to fit him," she said. "It's not a generic wheelchair. It has a specific tie-down."

The wheelchair weighs 300 pounds and the couple say it could also become a dangerous projectile if it's not properly secured — endangering both Dunphy and others.

Health deteriorating

Dunphy — who also suffers from epilepsy — hasn't been able to get to his medical appointments for about a year because he has no transportation and his wife says his health has deteriorated as a result.

"His medical doctor that treats him, actually said at this point in time he's deteriorated that much that it's unsafe for him to use public transportation," she said.

Kim Dunphy says the occupational therapist with Workers' Compensation and her husband's medical team have repeatedly recommended an accessible van for him - but to no avail.

"We don't know what to be doing anymore. We're after contacting just about everyone in government and different agencies and stuff like that and everyone turns around and says their hands are tied cause it's Workers' Comp," Dunphy said.

Dunphy believes her husband's life is on the line. "He's on this side of the ground for now. But we don't know how long it's going to be," she said through tears.

"We don't know when the fall is going to happen - THE fall - when THE seizure is going to happen. But we do know that he needs to be able to get to his appointments."