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Last month, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) participated in a press conference at Queens Park and released a report titled “Prescription Over-Ruled: Report on How Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board Systematically Ignores the Advice of Medical Professionals”. The report was written in conjunction with more than 20 health professionals, who decided to speak out about questionable practices of the WSIB.

In files where a case manager does not agree with the recommendations of a treating clinician, the WSIB often farms it out to a third party (a “hired gun”) to request further opinions and see if they receive a different response that suits their purpose. For example, to either terminate benefits or send an injured employee back to work. More often than not, the opinion by the hired gun does return with differing recommendations from the clinician, who regularly sees and treats the worker. So it begs the question: why bother requesting reports from the treating health professionals if they are being tossed away?

In September 2015, a former employee of the WSIB, Dr. Brenda Steinnagel, filed a law suit against the WSIB and her then employer, Workplace Health and Cost Solutions (WHCS). She had been terminated after she provided an opinion to the WSIB that they did not want on the file. Dr. Steinnagel worked for the WSIB as an internal medical consultant for 10 years, prior to commencing employment with WHCS in 2012. Dr. Steinnagel claims that both the WSIB and her employer tried to coerce her into changing her opinion on a file that would detrimentally affect an injured worker and the benefits to which he was entitled. She stuck to her guns: didn’t change her opinion, but as a result she lost her job! It would seem that Workplace Health and Cost Solutions is aptly named, as they terminated a doctor whose recommendations were going to award benefits to an injured worker. Good job!

Due to increasing similar complaints, the Ombudsman has agreed to look into this issue and determine whether a full investigation is warranted. The more complaints that they receive, the more likely they are to investigate.

Whether you are an injured worker affected by this situation, or a health professional whose advice is being ignored, it’s time to speak up. Injured workers: let your treatment providers know that the Ombudsman is listening, and they should share their experiences. Complaints may be submitted to the Ombudsman’s office online here or via e-mail: info@ombudsman.on.ca

The WSIB has been ignoring medical advice and reducing operating costs for several years, while workers are financially penalized.

This isn’t why the WSIB was established.

It’s time to do something about it and have this unfair practice investigated.

Author(s)

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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