Health and Fitness Assessments
May 3, 2005
It has come to the Union’s attention that the Department has recently distributed a document titled ‘Health and Fitness Assessments Commonly asked Questions and Answers’.
Members are advised that the Union has not agreed to the provision of Health and Fitness Assessments and until recently had not even seen the above document.One concern for the Union is Question 2. ‘Do I have to have a health and fitness assessment?’ The answer makes reference to a medical standard; “NRTC Assessing Fitness to Drive”, but the problem is that these guidelines are for use by your own GP, not as is stated; “The health and fitness assessment will provide you with the medical clearance for licence renewal”. Excerpts below explain:
The relationship between you and your doctor is confidential, therefore your doctor will not normally communicate directly with the Driver Licensing Authority. He or she will provide you with advice about your ability to drive as well as with a letter or report to take to the authority.
It is your responsibility to report your health condition to the Driver Licensing Authority.
Doctors will refer to the standards when undertaking an assessment for a Driver Licensing Authority, for example a regular assessment required for public passenger vehicle licensing.
Your Union totally agrees that it is in the best interest of all firefighters to maintain good health and to have regular medical checks by your own doctor, but it is concerned with the misleading information provided by the Department that infers you must undertake such tests or you could lose your licence.
Question 9. asks, “Will the information be treated as ‘private and confidential’?
As we all come to expect, the medical records held by our own GP’s are just that, ‘private and confidential, with many GP’s even refusing to release the basic of information on Medical Certificates as is their and your right to privacy under the doctor/patient relationship. The Department makes the sweeping statement that, “No health information will be placed on your personal file.” We would hope not. “Only information relating to fitness for duty status (‘fit for work’ or ‘not fit for work’) may be provided to your relevant supervisor where necessary.” So you see your health information is not private when held by the Department’s Health Services Section even if they don’t nominate the actual medical condition.
The Health Assessment Questionnaire is so detailed that they could most probably diagnose why your great grandfather died fifty years ago. You are not applying for insurance and therefore, do not, and we advise, should not, complete and sign this document. The answers you provide could very well prejudice claims for Workers Compensation in the future. Unlike many states within the USA, we have no deeming clause within our D&D that can be used to attribute most of the symptoms and diseases shown on the questionnaire to ‘caused at work’ and therefore may prejudice future D&D claims in respect of the ‘on duty’ or ‘off duty’ question.
The implied benevolence of the Department in offering a free Health and Fitness Assessments is in stark contrast to their concerns over the $5 spent on refreshments for firefighters on the Central Coast, who had their pays docked by the Department, when they quite rightly, refused to repay the monies. The same Department who now tries to change your Award to justify their bastardry.
Us old timers on the long closed State Superannuation Scheme most probably have nothing to lose from accessing a free medical but I advise all members under SASS and First State Super to seriously consider the free assessment and weigh it up against any ammunition this may provide the employer.
In summary this health assessment process has not been agreed to by the Union and has the potential to place members’ employment, D&D and Workers Compensation rights under threat.
So, get healthy, stay healthy, have regular check ups; but use your own family GP. Look after your health by all means but also look after the longevity of your career.