Work-related or long-term disability: How to help your employee to quickly get back to work

Éditeur ChefOrthopaedics

By Dr. Jacques Toueg, orthopedic surgeon and medical director of the Montreal Institute for Special Surgery.

When you are injured at work or on prolonged disability, coping with the long wait times of the public healthcare system comes just as another challenge. Between the deadlines you might miss or the difficulties and costs of recruiting temporary replacement staff, neither you nor your employee wants this period to stretch.

From the initial assessment and diagnosis all the way to the treatment or surgery, extended waiting periods undermine the efficiency of public healthcare.

Let’s take, for example, the case of Marc who injured his knee following a work accident that has left him unable to work since January. Although his family physician saw him rapidly and referred Marc to an orthopedist for a specialist’s assessment as he suspected the injury to be a meniscus tear, we are now in August and for over six months, Marc has been and is still waiting for his consultation with the orthopedist. On disability leave, he still has no idea of what causes his pain and when it will be eventually treated. At this stage, the only relief comes from his frequent consultations with a physiotherapist and occupational therapist to try to heal his injured knee and alleviate the pain.

If Marc’s employer had opted to send him directly to a specialist in the private sector, Marc could have been assessed with a clear diagnosis and operated within ten (10) days. Thus, when including a typical six (6) week recovery time, Marc would have been off work for eight (8) weeks at the most. But there is much more to this story than a knee injury. Many quick and quality treatment possibilities are also available to help those suffering from other injuries such as tendinous, ligamentous injuries, chronic shoulder tendonitis, cuff tears, hand or wrist injuries.

Marc’s example not only shows the impact of long wait times on one’s working abilities, but also emphasizes the importance of a quick treatment on one’s overall health. The fact remains that when treated in the public healthcare network, some of these common injuries can take up to two (2) years to fully heal.

Bank on a quick intervention


  • Accurate diagnosis on day one. Avoid multiple or erroneous diagnoses and the need for a (costly) second opinion.
  • Reduced physiotherapy and occupational therapy costs while waiting for a consultation or intervention.
  • Timely arthroscopic (non-invasive) surgery: quick recovery, lesser post-operative pain and fewer potential functional or anatomo-physiological limitations.
  • Reduced costs of contingency plan: recruitment and temporary work assignment.
  • Reduced number of lost work hours.
  • Reduced costs in health and safety in the workplace.
  • Reduction of insurance premiums.
  • Employee appreciation towards employer or insurance company.

Costs in a private clinic (estimated)

One of the main reasons for Canadians to delay seeking solutions in the private sector is the misguided idea that private medical services cost a fortune. When considering the costs incurred by lost work and contingency plans, this is a small price to pay to regain the ability to earn a living and regain quality of life. Below is a representation of estimated cost for some common services offered at ICS:

Consultation with a specialist                     $ 250
Shoulder or knee arthroscopic surgery  $ 3,600 to $ 7,800
Musculoskeletal ultrasound                         $ 300

Consultation and surgery within 7 to 10 days.

Did you know:

  • Employer and insurance companies have no responsibility for the results of treatments administered by a specialist in the private sector. This responsibility lies entirely with the attending physician.
  • It is not necessary to obtain a prescription from a general practitioner to consult a specialist in the private sector.
  • In some cases, the CNESST could reimburse a portion of the costs paid to a private clinic.
  • Legally, it is important to refer your employees to a clinic that has the necessary licenses to perform surgery in the private sector and where physicians practice 100% off-RAMQ (non-public plan members).

In summary, by choosing to quickly refer your employee to a private clinic, you’re putting your team as your first priority.