Controller: City dishes out $11 million more in workers' comp claims

City Butkovitz said there needs to be better management of the use of physical therapy and perhaps better training for those workers that are constantly injured on the job. (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer)

Updated: To include response from the Nutter Administration

The city has paid nearly $54 million for workers' comp claims for fiscal year 2011 -- a 26 percent increase from what the city paid five years ago, according to a report by City Controller Alan Butkovitz.

The report cites concerns pertaining to excessive use of physical therapy in which costs have jumped by 25 percent to $4.4 million. In 49 of the 165 claims tested workers made 30 or more visits to physical therapy which in some cases were up to 15 months beyond the date of injury. Butkovitz said this was "well beyond the average three-month standard regimen after which a physical therapist will release a patient from physical therapy."

He said that leads to higher medical expenses and allows workers to collect benefits under the Workers' Compensation Program for a much longer period of time.

The report also revealed that some city workers have a history of filing several workers' comp claims including 386 who have filed 11 or more claims and 2,203 workers that filed five to ten claims during their employment.

Butkovitz said there needs to be better management of the use of physical therapy and perhaps better training for those workers that are constantly injured on the job.

The Nutter Administration said it has been trying to reduce opportunities for injury, but some jobs are dangerous.

"We unfortunately have jobs that present multiple opportunities for injury," said Barry Scott, deputy director of finance and the city's risk manager. "We have been trying to address dangerous jobs and reduce opportunities for workers to get injured repeatedly."

Scott said sanitation workers often get scratches and scrapes, but the city is not going to stop picking up trash. Also he said police often have to deal with unruly suspects. 

"You can't always control the hazards the job entails," he said, adding that by law the city can't deny physical therapy to a worker. 

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