IAVGO Community Legal Clinic

December 03, 2014 06:00 ET

Injured Workers Demanding Better Health Care on International Day for People with Disabilities

Who: Injured and disabled workers

When: International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, 2014, 11 am

What: Giving out band aids to underscore how the WSIB is not properly funding health care and instead, gives millions of dollars in safety rebates to dangerous companies

Where: Ministry of Labour, 400 University Avenue, Toronto ON

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Dec. 3, 2014) - This International Day for People with Disabilities, a group of injured workers will be giving out band aids outside the Ministry of Labour to underscore how the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) downplays injuries and ignores the health care needs of people who were injured at work in Ontario. This action follows last week's Ontario Federation of Labour report which exposed how the WSIB is giving millions of dollars in safety rebates to corporations fined under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for killing and seriously injuring workers.

"It's not right that the WSIB is giving millions of dollars to dangerous employers while telling injured workers that they will not pay for their health care treatment," says Indira Rupchand, a member of Injured Workers Action for Justice. "We want actual health care and mental health support for the injuries we get on the job."

The WSIB has shifted the way it funds health care to the over 200,000 people injured at work every year in Ontario. While the WSIB claims to be putting more resources into health care for injured workers, the reality is that spending on actual treatment like physician services, physiotherapy and medication has declined; mental health services are extremely lacking; and the largest investment in health care spending (19.7%) is for programs like Regional Evaluation Centers that predict the date when a worker will recover and allow the WSIB to justify ending claims regardless of what treating physicians say.

As a result of these changes, countless injured workers in Ontario will be celebrating International Day for People with Disabilities by going without proper health care for injuries they had on the job.

"The WSIB's refusal to properly fund medical treatment is part of an austerity agenda designed to reduce corporations' premiums and offload the cost of workplace injuries onto injured workers, their families and social assistance. It's unfair and injured workers are calling for real change," says Jessica Ponting, Community Legal Worker at IAVGO Community Legal Clinic.

Relevant health care facts:

  • WSIB is steadily decreasing injured workers' health care benefits. Overall, the WSIB has cut $77 million from health care expenses in 2013 compared to 2009 and is spending an average of $134 less per claimant now compared to 2009.

  • Now, 19.7% of all health care spending is for Specialized Clinical Services and Programs, including Regional Evaluation Centres that predict when a worker will recover and allow the WSIB to ignore family doctors and end claims. It is the WSIB's largest and fastest growing health care expense.

  • Referencing their cost, the WSIB has delisted 19 types of medications from their formulary since 2008 and has not made their drug formularies public. Delisted medications include Lyrica, Cymbalta and Cipralex, all of which are covered under Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary and are available to people on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). As the cost of these prescriptions is quite high, many injured and disabled are incentivized to forego workers' compensation in favour of social assistance so they can get their medication.

  • In 2013, the WSIB only recognized injury-related mental health problems in 1909 claims. This represents less than 1% (0.82) of the 232,249 claims filed in 2013 and 13% of the people whose injuries were accepted to be permanent in 2013. This conflicts with research showing the severe impact of pain, sleep disturbance and long-term disablement on mental health.

Contact Information

  • IAVGO Community Legal Clinic
    Jessica Ponting
    Community Legal Worker
    (647) 401-9611
    j_ponting@lao.on.ca