Three NLRC decisions on company physician

1 July 2004 No.502
By:Ruben Del Rosario,Del Rosario&Del Rosario, May 17, 2004

1.Specialist opinion prevails over that of company physician who is general practitioner

At issue before the NLRC are two conflicting opinions on seafarer's disability grading due to heart disease.The company designated physician who was a general practitioner issued a disability grading of Grade 12 based on a report of his cardiologist who stated that the pacemaker should not be removed because the block may recur.Grade 12 states: "ABDOMEN, 5. Slight residuals or disorder of the intra-abdominal organs resulting in impairment of nutrition, slight tenderness and/or constipation or diarrhea" The seafarer's physician was a cardiologist and issued a disability grading of Grade 1 which states:"ABDOMEN 3.Severe residuals of impairment of intra-abdominal organs which requires regular aid and attendance that will unable worker to seek any gainful employement.
The NLRC ruled that the opinion of the specialist must prevail.It is of judicial notice that there are various specializations in medical science and that a general practitioner is not competent to diagnose any and all kinds of illnesses. It should be noted that the specialist of the company designated physician did not issue the disability grading but it was the company designated physician which issued such grading. The company physician is a general practitioner as opposed to seafarer's physician who was a cardiologist. Further, seafarer obviously has not worked and cannot work due to his condition which required a pacemaker.Also,the finding of the specialist of the company physician does state that the pacemaker should not be removed because the block may recur.This means that the seafarer is always at risk in any employment he undertakes.Thus, the seafarer must be awarded Grade 1 disability of US$60,000.

NLRC NCRCA No.l 033751-02 (NLRC NCR OFW Case No. (M) 00-04-0651-00),March31,2004

2.Disability grading of company physician must prevail

Seafarer was hit by a metal handle and fractured his left arm.He underwent treatment and therapy with the company designated physician for one year.He was assed adisability grading of Grade II (US$7,465). Not satisfied, seafarer saw anotherphysician who examined him and on the same day issued a disability grading of Grade I(US$60,000)

The NLRC ruled that findings of the company physician must prevail.

The Supreme Court has ruled that it is the company-designated physician who must proclaim the disability of the seafarer (German Marine Agencies Inc. vs. NLRC, G.R. No. 142049, January 30, 2001).The medical findings of the company physician was made after treating seafarer for more than one year. Having observed seafarer for one year, he is in a position to give a more accurate appraisal of seafarer’s condition. The other physician issued his medical certificate on the same day that seafarer went to see him.

The NLRC awarded U$7,465 (Grade II).

NLRC NCR CA No. 033274-02, NLRC-NCR-OFW-M-01-06-1217-00, April 20, 2004

3. Findings of seafarer's physician on back pain upheld; partial instead of permanent disability granted

Seafarer allegedly on lifting heavy boxes injured his back.He was repatriated and was treated by the company physician for "slight stenosis caused by annular disc bulge of L3-L4; L4-L5 and L5-S1". After treatment of about four months, he was declared "it to work" but still with the diagnosis of "slight stenosis" Seafarer allegedly still could not work because of his back pain and he consulted an independent physician more than a year later who diagnosed him with the same back pain and made a disability grading of Grade 8 (US$16,795).Seafarer filed a claim for permanent disability benefitsof US$60,000.The Labor Arbiter awarded US$60,000 reasoning that seafarer was already incapacitated to work and thus must be compensated for his loss of earnings.
On appeal, the NLRC Commission reduced the award from Grade 1 (US$60,000) to Grade 8 (US$16,795).
The NLRC ruled that the award of full disability benefits is untenable.Section 20B5 of the contract provides for the computation of benefits for any illness/disease that is contracted.Section 30 assigns Grade 1 disability for an "injury to the spinal cord as to make walking impossible." In seafarer"s case, the injury is "slight stenosis which resulted in "moderate limitation of the extension/flexion of the trunk" and under Section 30 of the contract, the disability grading is Grade 8 and not Grade 1.
Therefore, pursuant to the contract, seafarer is not entitled to permanent total disability but only to partial disability of Grade 8. While the company physicianstated that seafarer is "fit to work", his own medical report states that seafarer wasstill suffering from "slight stenosis".

NLRC NCR CA N0. 036943-03 (NLRC OFW Case No. (M) 01-09-1835-00), April 19, 2004