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Injured man wants change
Calls for workers-comp clients to help review policie

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 10, 2013

A review of the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) policies relating to pain is set for this fall, and while injured worker Bruce McMahon hopes to see some positive change come out of it, he wants to see a review of the Workers' Compensation Act itself.

NNSL photo/graphic

Bruce McMahon displays medications and treatments he's used in an effort to ease back pain resulting from a 2007 work injury. - Lyndsay Herman/NNSL photo

McMahon, a construction worker, fell from a ladder at a height of almost two and two-and-a-half metres from the ground in September 2007. The fall resulted in six broken ribs, which pinched nerves in his back and causes him pain to this day.

One of the issues that arose during McMahon's interactions with the commission was its decision not to compensate him for his pain. He took the decision to the Human Rights Commission.

The Human Rights Commission referred the matter to adjudication, which means it saw merit in McMahon's concerns, but details of the agreement eventually reached between McMahon and the WSCC are not public.

Commission president Dave Grundy said the WSCC's policies are reviewed at least once every three years, and its policy regarding pain disorders, colloquially referred to as the "pain policy," is up for review next March.

Developments such as case outcomes are considered when the policies are updated and the policies under scrutiny are checked to ensure they are in line with the Workers' Compensation Act, he said.

Grundy said the commission will likely start looking at the pain policy near the end of this year.

He added that the Permanent Impairment Rating (PMI) guide is currently under review and if it is not completed on schedule it could hold up the subsequent pain policy review.

McMahon said he hopes his case influences positive change in the pain policy when the review does take place and wants the GNWT to also get involved to ensure both the commission's policy and the Workers' Compensation Act do more to protect clients.

"It's necessary for people to talk to their MLAs about it because if the MLAs don't know about (pain issues), that's the end of the story," he said.

McMahon has kept in correspondence with Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley regarding his experience. Bromley has been vocal in the legislative assembly about concerns with some commission policies and practices, including discrepancies over what form of pain is compensated and how it is compensated.

Bromley sits on the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Infrastructure, which is responsible for the WSCC.

He said he's asked the committee for a review of these issues.

"I am pushing for a review of ... aspects of both the policy and the act itself," said Bromley. "I think it would be great to have some opportunity for the public to comment again on this sort of thing."

A review would require public consultation before the committee could make recommendations, something McMahon sees as a positive step.

"You don't want legislation changed by the people who are writing policy," McMahon said. "You need to get some people in there who have actually had an injury, who have actually gone through stuff with the compensation board."

McMahon calls his experience with the commission "a roller coaster" in a blog he's started to help unite and inform other commission clients.

He said confidentiality restrictions prevent the commission or health services from sharing names of others going through similar experiences.

He hopes the blog, titled You, Me, and the WCB in the NWT, will help bring injured workers together and share information.

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