When the O’Farrell Government gutted the state’s workers compensation scheme in 2012, the loss of cover for injuries suffered during journeys to-and-from work bit nurses and midwives particularly hard. The NSWNMA stepped into the breach with its own scheme and RN Alexis Devine is glad we did.
When Alexis Devine set off for home from her job in intensive care in June this year she was no more weary than normal after a 12-hour shift.“I was feeling fine for the majority of the drive home and suddenly I felt so tired. When I got into a familiar street close to home I felt a wave of exhaustion. I had a micro-sleep behind the wheel of the car, mounted a verge and ended up running into a tree,” she told The Lamp. “I injured my knee and fractured a rib. I was off work for six weeks.”
Alexis, an agency nurse, says the accident could have been a financial disaster.
“It was huge for me, I rely on each shift to get pay and I don’t get any sick leave or annual leave or employment insurance. It meant I had to go straight into my savings to maintain my living expenses.
“I was lucky that I didn’t have any major surgery. There were some bills that came from the hospital. I also copped a fine. It affected me hugely. I had to eat into my savings so I could get through every day.”
Alexis’ accident came almost 12 months after the O’Farrell Government had made drastic cuts to the state’s workers compensation scheme, including for injuries suffered when travelling to and from work. She was not entitled to compensation she would have received if the accident had occurred a year earlier.
“Initially I didn’t think I could be covered and I left it a long time until I realised that my injuries were lasting longer than I expected,” she said.
“I was in the hospital in the emergency department getting a check over and one of the younger nurses mentioned that the NSWNMA provides cover for those members who have been in an accident.
“They had stepped up and taken over that role to provide some compensation financially. I was over the moon. It was nice to know that the Association was there to provide that assistance. I am so impressed and indebted to them for it.”
Alexis says what has happened to her has prompted conversations with other nurses about the impact the change to workers comp has had on nurses.
“It affects us hugely, unfortunately. We work so hard through the night to care for people and then for someone like me, through no fault of my own, to have an accident with injuries that will be with me for a long time. I felt disappointed by the government for taking it [compensation] away. It saddens me a lot.”
“I can’t stress enough how important it is for all members to ensure they are financial. Don’t hesitate to contact the Association to inquire about your membership status.”
— Brett Holmes
On June 2012 the O’Farrell Government rolled back the rights of workers in New South Wales, leaving nurses and midwives vulnerable in the event of an injury while travelling to or from work.
General Secretary Brett Holmes says the Association decided to step in and establish a safety net for nurses and midwives.
“We now offer all financial members of the Association accident journey insurance as part of their membership,” he said.
“This insurance provides assistance to members injured on a journey to or from work, where they would have previously been covered by workers compensation.
“It can’t completely replace workers compensation but it does provide members with a limited safety net that provides 85% of lost weekly wages, death and disability insurance up to $100,000 and rehabilitation expenses up to $300,000.”
Brett says it is important to know that only nurses and midwives with current financial membership of the NSWNMA at the time of their accident are covered by the scheme.
Financial members of the NSWNMA should lodge a workers compensation claim in the first instance.
If that is denied they can download a claim form from the NSWNMA website and lodge all the necessary documentation including a medical certificate with the Association.
The Association will verify that the claimant was a financial member at the time of the accident and then forward the claim on to the insurer.
Alexis Devine says that once she had sorted out the paperwork with her employer the process to get compensation moved quickly and smoothly.
“The paper work is always a bit of a drag but once it was off I was really impressed how quickly the Association processed it and how communicative they were. They rang me and let me know what was going on. Then my payment arrived and it was like Christmas!”
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