Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 – s. 561(1) – appeal against decision of industrial magistrate — (Queensland Government Industrial Gazette)

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Queensland Government Industrial Gazette

Friday, Dec 5, 2008

INVESTIGATION INTO ALLEGATIONS AGAINST ANN COONEY & ROBIN FOOTE & THE MANAGEMENT OF THE ALCOHOL AND DRUG SERVICE

Robin Foote is a Counsellor. Alcohol and Drug Service of The Prince Charles Hospital Health Service District.
Anne Cooney is employed as a Clinical Nurse at the Needle Exchange Service within The Prince Charles Hospital Health Service District.
A complaint was received on 13/05/02 from Anne Cooney alleging that  Mr Foote had engaged in behaviour that if proven would constitute harassment namely:

  • During a telephone conversation Mr Foote allegedly ‘proceeded to raise his voice’ and ‘continued his verbal assault’.
  • In his undated and unsigned response Mr Foote outlined that he believed he has been subjected to ‘work based systematic bullying’ by various members of the Brisbane Harm Reduction Centre (BHRC) Team, including a manager, supervisor and other staff, over an extended period. In this document Mr Foote names the following staff: Mr Greg Perry (Clinical Nurse Consultant), Ms Anna Cooney (Clinic Nurse), Ms Lynda Scott (Program Manager, Clinical Services) and Mr Mark Fairbairn (Manager, Alcohol and Drug Services). Mr Foote states these behaviours include:
  • Mr Perry’s handling of staff rostering including Mr Perry’s availability to Mr Foote to discuss the same;
  • Mr Perry’s approach to making telephone numbers available;
  • Mr Fairbairn’s proposal to ‘diffuse the situation’ with respect to Ms Cooney’s complaint;
  •  Ms Scott’s approach to Mr Foote in relation to Ms Cooney’s complaint; and
  • Ms Cooney’s ‘contradictory behaviour’.

In his response Mr Foote also alludes to other non-specified difficulties he has allegedly encountered with his employment including removal from an unspecified project.

There are also issues about Mr Foote’s underlying psychological condition. The alcoholism may well have been the product of an underlying condition. Certainly, he had a past history of depression. His evidence is that he attended at the Royal Darwin Hospital in March 1986 complaining of depression. His evidence was that his condition had improved by 6 February 1987 and that by 8 January 1988, he felt well, though he was still taking Prozac as a medication. He received further treatment for psychiatric problems in Darwin in mid 1994 and was prescribed Melleril.

The authorities upon degenerative backs and psychological injuries cannot be kept in separate folders. One has to be alive to the possibility that Mr Foote’s condition may have deepened as a result of natural progression and that the only connection with his employment was temporal.

The qualification is that on Dr Byth’s analysis, Mr Foote’s employment at BIALA was not so much the cause of his psychological injury as an exacerbation of a pre-existing Dysthymic Disorder. Notwithstanding that Mr Foote’s condition was not symptomatic before he went to BIALA, the speed with which he commenced to become angry, the speed to which he began to put on weight and the early on-set of troubled relationships at work, Dr Byth’s opinion seems to me, if I might take the liberty of saying so, to be entirely correct. In my view, this case is on a proper example of an “injury” within s. 32(3)(b) rather than a case of an injury within s. 32(1). I rather regret that conclusion because on the evidence of Dr Byth, Mr Foote’s state was so agitated that it may be quite impossible to assess the extent of the aggravation for the purposes of s. 32(4) of the Act.
I dismiss the Appeal. I reserve all questions as to costs.