Jackson v. South Peninsula Hospital, Inc., 123120 AKWC, 20-0119

Docket Nº:AWCB Decision 20-0119
Case Date:December 31, 2020
Court:Alaska
 
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BARBARA JACKSON, Employee, Claimant,
v.
SOUTH PENINSULA HOSPITAL, INC., Employer,
and
ALASKA NATIONAL INSURANCE, Insurer, Defendants.
AWCB Decision No. 20-0119
AWCB No. 201808968
Alaska Workers Compensation Board
December 31, 2020
         INTERLOCUTORY DECISION AND ORDER           Jung M. Yeo, Designated Chair.          An issue related to Barbara Jackson's (Employee) September 30, 2020 petition for a second independent medical evaluation (SIME) was heard on December 3, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska, a date selected on October 27, 2020. An October 27, 2020 hearing request gave rise to this hearing. Attorney Michael Flanigan appeared telephonically and represented Employee. Attorney Martha Tansik appeared telephonically and represented South Peninsula Hospital, Inc., and Alaska National Insurance (collectively, Employer). The record closed at the hearing's conclusion on December 3, 2020.          ISSUE          Employer did not oppose Employee's request for an SIME. However, it contends the SIME should be done via telemedicine to limit Employee's COVID-19 exposure and avoid additional liability.          Employee contends she will accept the additional risk of the SIME travel and asks for an in-person SIME.          Should an SIME be done in-person or via telemedicine?          FINDINGS OF FACT          A preponderance of the evidence establishes the following facts and factual conclusions:          1) On June 22, 2018, Employee reported she sustained respiratory injuries when she was inhaled smoke from burning lithium batteries while working for Employer. (First Report of Injury, June 27, 2018).          2) On August 13, 2020, the division addressed concerns about injured workers traveling to SIME visits in other states during the COVID-19 pandemic:
In some cases, the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board requires Second Independent Medical Evaluations (SIMEs), which often necessitate air travel outside Alaska. The location of many SIME doctors may result in travel through areas with a higher number of reported COVID-19 cases. The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) states some individuals are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness and is recommending that high risk individuals avoid non-essential air travel until further notice (Internet citation omitted).
In light of the CDC recommendation, injured workers who are considered to be at high risk by the CDC, or whose physician has stated they should not travel, will not be required to attend out-of-state SIMEs that require air travel. Travel to these SIMEs will be suspended until the CDC lifts its recommendation against air travel for high risk individuals.
Injured workers who are at high risk or whose doctors have stated they should not travel are encouraged to contact the division as soon as possible.
If an injured worker is not at high risk and all parties agree, a SIME that requires air travel may proceed. Several jurisdictions, including Alaska, and several airlines have imposed restrictions on travelers due to COVID-19. The cost of any testing, layovers, quarantine, or medical treatment due to COVID-19 during or resulting from the SIME travel will be considered part of the cost of the examination under AS 23.30.095(k) that shall be paid by the employer. . . . (Alaska Workers' Compensation Division Bulletin 20-02 (REVISED), August 13, 2020).
         3) Revised Bulletin...

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