WCB of Nova Scotia Staffs Up to Issue Chronic Pain Decisions Faster

HALIFAX, April 14, 2005 – The Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia will streamline its process and hire about 70 additional employees to ensure that claims for workers requesting chronic pain benefits are reviewed as quickly as possible. The new employees also will ensure that workers currently under active case management and those injured into the future, benefit from what is learned about preventing and managing chronic pain.

Under the new plan all claims for workers with chronic pain injured before 1990, and some for workers injured after 1990, will be completed by December 2006. By the end of 2007 all claims for workers on the chronic pain list will be completed. “We are looking at claims that go back almost 20 years to determine whether a worker is entitled to receive benefits. Reviewing the individual circumstances for each worker, many with multiple claims, is very complex,” said Nancy MacCready-Williams, Chief Executive Officer. “With our current process and number of employees it was taking us too long to complete this work. This is unacceptable from a customer service perspective. Our new plan will allow us to complete this work in as short a time as possible.”

In an October 2003 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada said that workers with chronic pain must be individually assessed to determine if they are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits for chronic pain. To date, 4700 workers have contacted the WCB asking that their claims be reviewed for chronic pain benefits.

The WCB currently has about 360 employees – 22 of whom are part of a specialty Transition Services Team that was set up in 2004 to focus on workers who apply for chronic pain benefits. The majority of the new employees will join the Transition Services Team for two years. The remainder of the new employees will be hired for 18-months to ensure that workers currently under active case management and workers injured into the future, benefit from what is learned about preventing and managing chronic pain.

Under the new plan, chronic pain claims will be separated into distinct groups for review. For each group, claims that were in the appeal system when the policies were approved will be reviewed first. All groups will be processed simultaneously. The next phase of the plan involves determining the timeframes for when individual claims will be reviewed. That will allow the WCB to tell injured workers where they are on the list and estimate when their claim will be reviewed.

“Through a combination of streamlined process and additional resources, we are able to double the volume of work within the timelines originally planned,” said MacCready-Williams.

The WCB booked $168 million in benefits liabilities in 2003 to reflect the cost of providing chronic pain benefits. The impact of the administrative resources required with this new plan will not be significant enough to change the WCB’s funding strategy. The WCB will revisit the original costing estimates once a significant number of claims have been reviewed.

The Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia provides comprehensive workplace injury insurance to over 18,000 employers and approximately 300,000 workers in Nova Scotia.