A Flinders Medical Centre brain surgeon has won the right to compensation from SA Health for injuries he sustained in a car accident on his way to work.
Dr Henry Buckett suffered serious injuries in a car accident while driving to the hospital, earlier than usual, on the morning of June 6 last year.
Buckett had been recalled to FMC the previous night to assess a patient, “Mr A”, who had presented at the neurosurgical ward. The patient had signs of bleeding on the brain and was deteriorating.
Workers Compensation Tribunal Deputy president Stephen Lieschke accepted Buckett’s explanation that he was returning to the hospital earlier than usual the next morning to reassess Mr A as part of his recall duties, before beginning his usual day shift.
In his judgement, Lieschke also claimed that FMC had a “climate of pressure” against staff claiming for all hours worked.
SA Health said today it is appealing decision and therefore would not comment.
SA Health argued that Buckett had travelled to work earlier than usual that morning for the purpose of an unauthorised, voluntary start to his work day, which included checking on the patient, but which was not part of his recall duties.
However, Lieschke found that Buckett’s “sole reason for travelling at the time […] was to discharge his recall duties”.
Lieschke found there was an expectation, under established practice, that Buckett reassess any new patient he had seen overnight, before the end of his ‘on call’ period the next morning.
In his published decision, the Deputy President rejected what he described as SA Health’s “unrealistic characterisation” that Buckett was travelling to work for “a private purpose”, or as part of his normal duties (as opposed to recall duties) or that he was voluntarily checking on the patient before the start of his normal work day.
Lieschke also rejected SA Health’s argument that Buckett was not performing a recall duty because he had not been specifically directed to do so, adding that SA Health did not identify any process which actually existed for this purpose.
In addition, Leischke rejected SA Health’s attempt to characterise recall duties relevant to Mr A as no more than a return to work for handover purposes. He said this assertion was “directly inconsistent with the facts” and that “but for examining Mr A the night before, there was no reason for the journey at that particular time”.
SA Health had also argued that Buckett had no entitlement to payment for the morning journey because he had a history of not claiming wages for time spent travelling for his second recall journey in similar circumstances.
But Lieschke ruled that “internal hospital pressure against accurate time recording” and “a climate of pressure against claiming for all hours spent working” existed, and that Buckett’s practice of not claiming in the past could not negate his legal entitlement to be paid for the journey on which he was seriously injured.
“I conclude the journey was undertaken in the course of the applicant carrying out a duty of his employment. It follows that the injuries sustained by the applicant are compensable,” the judgement reads.
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