Worker's Compensation Specialist Kathy George's move from the Human Resources building to Emory Hospital in August 1995 foretold greater changes. "We thought having her in the hospital versus across campus would make us more accessible to all employees," said Barbara Hargett, director of risk management for Emory Hospitals and administrator of Emory's worker's compensation program. "If University employees get injured on the job and need to seek medical treatment, they usually go to one of Emory hospitals' emergency rooms where a specialist is nearby."
The change in location worked so well that Hargett, who already had been given responsibility for the newly joined Crawford Long and Emory Hospital programs, was asked to oversee the University program at the direction of Alice Miller, vice president of Human Resources. Thus Mamie Weaver, who was still located at HR, joined Hargett, Muriel Mellema, Edith Bullock and George at the Emory hospitals as part of a new worker's compensation team. "Bringing it all under one umbrella allows us to take the best of both programs, utilize existing resources and provide a more efficient delivery of service," said Hargett. "It was a great idea."
Hargett stresses specialists' role as advocate for employees as they navigate their way through the unfamiliar waters of worker's compensation. Because the program is state-regulated and administered by the University, it's important that employees contact a worker's compensation specialist about their injuries as soon as possible. "We want to be sure we're meeting all of their needs," said Hargett. If injured on the job, the accompanying sidebar lists the steps employees need to take to receive benefits.
To qualify for worker's compensation, an "injury has to arise out of and during the course of employment," explained Muriel Mellema, manager of the program. "Both conditions must be met before a claim is compensible under worker's compensation." Employees who are unsure if they fall within these guidelines should contact a worker's compensation specialist for clarification, she added.
Georgia has had a worker's compensation program since the 1920s. "Prior to that if you had an injury or occupational illness, you had to file suit against your employer," said Mellema. Believing that to be an unfair burden to employees, the legislature created worker's compensation to provide temporary medical and income benefits to injured or ill workers. "It was basically to assist a person to get back on their feet," said Mellema.
If you're injured on the job
· Notify your supervisor immediately, even if the injury does not seem serious, and fill out an employee incident report;
· Go to the emergency room at Emory Hospital or Crawford Long for medical evaluation, if needed; and
· Follow up with a worker's compensation specialist after your visit to the ER; she will advise you of program benefits and rules regarding treatment.
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