This edition was issued on 11 January 2022
Welcome to 2022. I trust that you had an enjoyable holiday period and would like to wish you a happy and prosperous new year.
As the Commission recommences operations for 2022, it seems unfortunately that the pandemic is not finished with any of us yet. Thus far during the pandemic we have been very fortunate that COVID-19 has not impacted the Commission’s staff and decision makers and as a result we have been able to keep operating, other than in relation to the cancellation of in-person medical assessments. This latest variant of COVID-19, however, will test our ability to maintain this position given the large number of cases currently being experienced in the community. It is our intention to keep hearing cases on our virtual platforms even if we have reduced staff or decision maker numbers if people fall ill.
It is inevitable that some delays will eventuate and we will work hard with the profession to deal with any delays occasioned by the current public health situation.
This edition of Personal Injury Commission News includes some important information about how the Commission is adjusting its services in response to the latest challenges posed by COVID-19. Please familiarise yourself with the changes.
I thank you in advance for your cooperation and for working with us to ensure that outcomes can continue to be delivered for claimants and workers despite the circumstances we currently find ourselves in.
I will be in touch with another edition of Personal Injury Commission News soon.
Judge Gerard Phillips
Interim Pause of In-Person Medical Assessments
As you know, the Omicron strain of COVID-19 is perhaps the most contagious variant that we have experienced thus far. It is putting great strains on all aspects of our society, not least of which for those in the medical profession.
Throughout the pandemic, the Commission has sought to ensure the safety of injured road users and workers and our medical assessor cohort in regard to in-person medical assessments. Given the current prevalence of the virus in our community, the Commission has decided to suspend in-person medical assessments until the end of January in order to keep everyone safe. As such, assessments currently scheduled for January that cannot proceed via videoconference will be rescheduled to a later date.
The Commission will continue conducting the majority of psychiatric medical assessments via videoconference. In instances where a psychiatric examination must proceed in-person, it will be rescheduled to a later date.
Other assessments that can proceed by videoconference will be arranged with agreement of the parties and approval from the Medical Assessor.
We will review this position in the last week of January and will provide further information about either a resumption of in-person assessments or an extension of the suspension depending on prevailing conditions.
You can access details of the Commission’s current COVID-19 response on the website at any time.
Potential Impacts on Commission Operations
The Commission, like the rest of the community, continues to be adversely affected by the pandemic. I expect given the high number of infections in the community at present that a proportion of the Commission’s staff, decision makers and the parties and legal representatives who engage with us may unfortunately become ill in the near future.
As a result, I anticipate that in the short term there may be an adverse impact to our operations and the ability for matters to procced if people are too unwell to work, are required to isolate or are unable to participate in proceedings as a result. This is an unfortunate fact of the situation in which we all find ourselves. We will endeavour to minimise the impacts that these situations may have on individual cases, but my best appreciation of the situation is that for the first time during this pandemic, hearings are likely to be affected due to illness.
The Commission will communicate with all parties should these circumstances arise for a particular hearing and reschedule it for an alternative time.
How Practitioners Can Help
I seek the assistance of legal practitioners in helping the Commission minimise any pandemic-related disruptions to proceedings.
Notwithstanding the outbreak, it is our intention to keep hearing cases on our virtual platforms.
If you are unable to proceed with a hearing due to illness, please brief an alternative legal representative wherever possible, in order to avoid vacating the listing. Given the current pandemic conditions, each hearing that can proceed means that we can more quickly deal with matters which are delayed. If you are unable to secure alternate representation for your client or otherwise make other arrangements for the matter to proceed, please notify the Commission as early as possible. This will help to minimise unnecessary attendances in matters that cannot proceed and ensure that alternative arrangements can be made.
Additionally, if you need to request to change contact details or provide additional participant details for a teleconference, please advise the Commission as early as possible and at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled teleconference.
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation with this.
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