Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:32): My question is for the Minister for Workplace Safety. Last week I met with a really beautiful man called Warren Brown, whose arm was really sadly very badly crushed in a workplace accident a number of years ago.
He is like many other patients on workers compensation, who are meant to receive payment for reasonable medical costs resulting from their injuries, but they are being uniformly denied remuneration for legally prescribed medicinal cannabis by WorkCover.
This is despite having full state and federal approvals and having exhausted all treatment options, including opioid analgesics and ketamine treatments. They are even now suggesting he has a spinal fusion to reduce the pain.
Most of these treatments are actually more expensive than medicinal cannabis, so it is not the cost that is the problem, it is the stigma.
We know that the government has been really forward in this, so I am just asking the minister how we address this discrimination and bring WorkCover into line with the government’s own policy on medicinal cannabis.
Ms STITT(Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (12:33): I thank Ms Patten for her question. My thoughts are with that injured worker, because clearly they are dealing with some pretty traumatic after-effects of their workplace injury.
We are committed to making sure that all injured workers get access to the treatment and the support that they need to enable them to recover and return to meaningful work. I am obviously not in a position to comment on the individual circumstances of your constituent, but you would know that we proudly legislated medicinal cannabis in Victoria but with an appropriate framework that recognises the limitations of the current clinical evidence.
When it comes to WorkSafe’s decisions around treatments and appropriate services, they are guided by the medical bodies, including the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. When considering those modern treatments and medicines, such as the use of medicinal cannabis, WorkSafe have to consider their alternative treatment policy and they will be guided by the clinical evidence.
Whilst I am not in a position to comment specifically on the individual concerned, I am very happy to see whether there is some additional information that might be able to be provided to you, Ms Patten, around the way in which WorkSafe will make the decisions or the agents will make decisions around what appropriate treatments for particular injuries are. I hope that does help you.
Obviously we are committed to ensuring that the workers compensation system remains contemporary and consistent. There is no intention here to close off any kind of treatment, but there needs to be the clinical evidence base there.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:35): Thank you, Minister, and I would appreciate any further information you can provide. Every single WorkCover patient who has been prescribed medicinal cannabis by their medical practitioner has been refused payment, so it is across the board.
We might say it is all on clinical data, but there is a lot of clinical data that actually shows that medicinal cannabis is working, and for this gentleman, Warren, it is the first time he has been without pain. It is the first time that he is actually considering going back to work and he is feeling like he is able to go back to work.
Via supplementary, I ask whether the minister would meet with Warren and his general practitioner to get an understanding of why medicinal cannabis has brought such relief and why we need WorkCover to assist him.
Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (12:36): Thanks for that supplementary question, Ms Patten.
It is difficult for me as the minister to get involved in individual cases of injured workers who are involved with the workers compensation scheme, and I know that you would know that that is not because I am not completely committed to making sure that people recover and get the support they need.
It is just that it is not really appropriate or possible for me to get involved in individual cases. But, as I indicated, I am happy to see what additional information I can provide you with from WorkSafe that will give a bit more detail about how these decisions are arrived at and what medical evidence and medical support goes into the decision-making around appropriate treatments.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Question without notice 24/2/22