Howard’s End – Claimants Don't Share Confidence
On the eve of a decision from the Transport and Industrial Relations Select-Committee about whether to hold an inquiry into ACC, claimants are not sharing the confidence of ACC Minister, Hon Ruth Dyson, that the office of the complaints investigator has the neutrality and impartiality to properly investigate complaints under the new Code of Claimants Rights due to take effect in February. Maree Howard writes.
Over recent months Scoop has reported about the on-going problems claimants are experiencing with ACC and the lack of support and rehabilitation they are receiving.
Scoop has reported about some seriously injured people waiting months for things like a shower or wheelchair ramp, doctors manipulated by case managers and being dumped from the scheme, incomplete files being sent to doctors, while others have been concerned about ACC employee behaviour and their confrontational and adversarial attitude to the point where the patient's psycholgical well-being is impaired.
Scoop has also reported about the $3.6 billion ACC has invested while the public pays $2.2 billion each year to treat, rehabilitate and compensate injured New Zealansders.
The latest revelations are that with the advent of the Code of Claimants Rights due to take effect in February next year, there is no confidence in the office of the complaints investigator to properly investigate complaints under the new code.
Scoop has now been provided with copies of email's to and from ACC Branch and Case Manager to complaint's office staff which suggests that there is a major problem within that office which touts itslef publicly as being impartial and independent of ACC.
One email from a senior complaints officer to a case manager says " I have drafted a response to.........and I would appreciate your comments on its accuracy, thank you for your help"
The case manager responds " That looks fine."
The same is said in another email from the same investigator to another case manager. The case manager responds " Excellent....response, I have saved it to my drive for the next time........feels like making me busy. I find it sad when people can't get over it.........."
The claimant has multiple injuries and is under continuing care from his doctors. He is outraged with the messages and suggest that claimants do not stand a chance of fair and proper treatment from that office
He is not alone.
In another email a different complaints investigator writes to another case manager: " .....it is therefore my opinion that you can now fire ahead.........good luck."
In yet another, a Branch Manager helps the complaints investigator draft a response to the claimant.
In another case a complaints investigator writes to a case manager about a reply to a claimant: "Could you please let us know if this response is OK and if you have any alterations and/or changes."
Neutrality and impartiality of the complaints office does not seem to exist even though claimants and the public are told that it is and it is advertised as such.
This is the same complaints office in which the Minister has confidence to investigate fairly, properly and impartialy the complaints about bad behaviour under the new Code of Claimants Rights.
Claimant's have told Scoop they have been verbally attacked by ACC employees, been threatened, told they are being difficult, been dumped from ACC with undue haste and been accused of being confrontational, adversarial and litigous whenever they persist in raising their legitimate concerns.
The claimants say that what ACC accuses them of is the behaviour that ACC itself is guilty of. As one put it, "they call us what they are."
Sccop has discovered that there is a pattern to this bad employee behaviour across the country and it is not isolated to one branch or employee. It almost seems that ACC has the "ACC Charm School For Upsetting Injured People" and graduation is mandatory.
Doctors have written to branch and case managers about their bad beahviour with one doctor saying that if his patient has a nervous breakdown then ACC will be held liable. Scoop is aware of many comments from doctors about the way their patient's are being affected.
Another claimant says he and his lawyer have been acccused of lying and called; "generally thoroughly nasty people to deal with."
Scoop has been asking claimants to write down their complaints but even that seems difficult. One claimant recently wrote to Scoop that when he tried to do that all the anger and frustration came flooding back and he broke down sobbing and never got past that stage. His wife is deeply concerned. He says has spoken to others and they experience similar difficulties.
For all that claimants still seem to want closure. One claimant told Scoop that he wants all the ACC people who have ever dealt with his claim in one room, so that he can individually ask each of them why they did what they did to him.
Scoop is aware from correspondence over a lengthy period that almost every politician has received horror stories about ACC. Therefore, there can be no excuse for ignorance of the matter and for them not to act.
The public of New Zealand will be badly served by their respresentatives if tomorrow's select-committee meeting does not announce a full and proper inquiry into ACC's practices and procedures.