GB takes on remote Australia’s insurance challenges

Among the challenges, there is one advantage

GB takes on remote Australia’s insurance challenges

Insurance News

By Daniel Wood

The challenges for an insurance business operating in remote Australia can be very different and more acute than those faced by a more metropolitan focused enterprise. Gallagher Bassett (GB) opened an office in Darwin in 2017 that provides self-insurance claims management services to all Northern Territory (NT) government staff.

Kye Brown (pictured above) is GB’s Darwin-based branch manager for the NT. She told Insurance Business that her working career has provided experience in the whole “lifecycle of the workers’ comp system.” Brown has seen it from the perspective of the insurer, the employer and now, with GB, a third-party claims administrator (TPA).

Leveraging a small network

There is one big advantage, she said, that comes with working in a more remote part of the country.

“It's a really small industry,” said Brown. “There are only five approved self-insurers in the territory so it's a really small, tight-knit scheme and everybody knows everybody, which is really helpful when we need help.”

The modest scale of the industry, she said, can help with some of the challenges. Many of the insurance professionals network together and see each other on a regular basis.

“We bump into each other in the mall and things like that so you get to share what's going on,” she said. “In terms of dealing with any challenges, we tend to reach out to one another, especially to help in the remote areas.”

Limited access to services

Brown said one of the big challenges from an injury management perspective is the limited access to psychological treatment and psychiatry services.

“For the injured workers there can be waiting times to get treatment of between two and six months,” Brown said. “This obviously isn't ideal because the sooner they get into a treatment provider and can start on that road to recovery, the better.”

Telehealth can only help so much, and many injured workers, she said, end up flying inter-state to access treatment “they just can't get here.”

Brown said having to travel inter-state for weeks at a time to access treatment “adds extra layers of stress” when clients are trying to focus on recovering from their injuries.

She said when there are treatment shortages in the bigger states, there are more alternative treatment options simply because the service provider pool is usually so much bigger.

Sharing services

One way GB deals with this access issue is sharing services.

“As much as we can, we try and share services with other agencies so that if we are having to send a provider out to a remote area of the Northern Territory to support an injured worker, we’re not just sending them out there for one person,” Brown said.

She said GB does have a good provider network, particularly for vocational services. However, these providers don’t always go out to remote areas.

“When they do, it can become quite costly because it's either really remote travel on a dirt road in a four-wheel drive, or a small charter plane that you need to try and organise,” Brown said.

Alcohol-related violence and delinquency

Towns in the Northern Territory, including Darwin and Alice Spring, have been in the news recently for issues impacting the local community like juvenile delinquency and alcohol-related violence. Brown said work colleagues have experienced some of the disturbances around their homes and that many local businesses around the NT have closed because of these ongoing issues.

GB does offer support services for people exposed to occupational violence.

“If any of the territory workers who are in and around that setting are injured and then claim, we’re making sure they've got the right mental health supports and responding to that as soon as we can for them so that they can get into the right treatment,” Brown said.

She said GB can “fast-track” claim approvals to cut wait times and ensure claimants aren’t out of pocket.

Brown said these claims – sometimes from police and fire personnel who are at the frontline of dealing with alcohol-related violence – represent only “a trickle” of the range of workers’ comp claims they deal with.

Cultural Fit

In a previous interview with IB, Brown discussed how her GB office in Darwin deals with the talent crunch. Brown said when they need staff, GB’s preference is to focus on finding someone who is a “cultural fit.”

“We can always teach a person with the right drive the technical skills, the injury and case management skills, and the legislation is what it is,” she said. “We pretty much only focus on that culture fit and making sure we’re bringing the right people into the business that are actually going to help people during their recovery – and we teach them the rest of it.”

Are you an insurance professional working in a remote part of Australia? What are your challenges? Please tell us below

Related Stories

Keep up with the latest news and events

Join our mailing list, it’s free!