Partnership findings have helped guide policy and practice at WorkSafeBC.
Many working British Columbians suffer from occupational and work aggravated asthma, but only a small fraction receive compensation or medical treatment through WorkSafeBC. We estimated that up to 27,000 working-age British Columbians had work-related asthma in 2001 and that about 9,000 of those required medical treatment, but only about 2% of cases were compensated. This research helped inform changes to how work-related asthma is compensated.
WorkSafeBC pays for surgeries in private clinics and public hospitals, and provides a financial incentive if the surgeries are expedited (conducted within 21 days of authorization). In response to the BC Auditor General, who noted a need to evaluate WorkSafeBC’s surgical policies, we evaluated differences in health status and return to work by surgical setting and expedited status. Private clinics and the expedited incentive led to a two week reduction in surgical wait times, but surgeries performed in public hospitals had shorter return to work times. These results helped WorkSafeBC refine the expedited program by informing contract and fee negotiations with private clinics and orthopedic surgeon.
Less than half of all mesothelioma patients in BC receive compensation even though almost all of those who apply are found to be eligible. WorkSafeBC, the BC Cancer Agency, and the Partnership have undertaken a number of initiatives designed to increase the number of mesothelioma patients seeking compensation. In one project, the BC Cancer Agency sent a letter to physicians of mesothelioma patients indicating that their patients may be eligible for compensation. A 2011-2012 Innovation at Work project will see researchers interviewing patients, their families, and physicians in order to investigate factors that facilitate or prevent patients from seeking compensation.
Asbestos-related diseases (mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer) represent a significant and growing burden in BC and worldwide. We recently facilitated a workshop that brought together worker, industry and WorkSafeBC representatives, physicians, and researchers to improve awareness and prevention of asbestos-related disease in BC. The workshop led to recommendations that have informed changes to WorkSafeBC practices around asbestos prevention, compensation, and treatment, including an enhanced WorkSafeBC website on asbestos (www.hiddenkiller.ca), dedicated staff to help workers and their families with compensation, and the development of a proposal for an asbestos exposure registry program.