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ACC: Three Stooges and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Howard’s End - Three Stooges and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

News that the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee is too busy to undertake an inquiry into ACC in the immediate future has gone down like a lead balloon with affected claimants. The select-committee or ACC itself should appoint a retired judge to do its work for it. Maree Howard writes.

Affected ACC claimants expressed deep disappointment to Scoop last night that what they describe as a rogue organisation is to be allowed to continue unabated without independent supervision and oversight.

The Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee has decided that it cannot undertake an inquiry into ACC "due to a heavy workload."

Claimants who contacted Scoop said it appears the physical and psychological well-being of injured individuals, their families and New Zealand society generally, who pay the annual $2.2 billion bill to ACC for their treatment, rehabilitation and compensation, is not seen as that important.

Long-term claimants, which ACC refers to as "stock", are questioning that if ACC handles 1.4 million claims each year and it claims an 84% approval rating then that must mean that 16% of the claims it handles - or 240,000 people - are unhappy.

They say ACC tells the public there are around 12,000 long-term claimants, another 1500 which it has pre-selected to be dumped from the scheme this year.

So, by deducting that number from the 240,000 there are a further 228,000 other New Zealanders apart from them who are also unhappy with ACC.

That is an awful lot of individual people who will have families and friends. The politicians ought to remember that.

One Christchurch claimant drew the analogy that if Watties had 240,000 defective cans of baked beans out of 1.4 million in the market place, or if the Fonterra dairy companies had 240,000 bottles of bad milk on supermarket shelves the Government, the politicians, the Commerce Commission and every other authority would be jumping up and down and calling for public inquiries in Parliament and in every section of the media they could find. They would be lining up for photo oppportunities.

He said that an animal has more rights in New Zealand than an injured New Zealander. If you worked an injured dog or a horse you would be in jail - not so for injured humans with the compulsory ACC accident insurance policy.

With the escalating accident rate in the workplace he advised people not to be too complacent because, sooner or later, the odds are they will join us in the queue in having to fight ACC for nothing more than their lawful entitlements, he said.

Which leads Scoop to a rather obvious question. Where is the Medical Association and Medical Council in all this?

Scoop and other media have carried stories of the concerns of individual GP's and specialists about the way their patient's are being treated by ACC.

But their professional association's remain publicly silent which sought of makes the medical principle "First do no harm" a bit of a joke.

In September 1990 it was the Medical Council who conducted an inquiry and wrote to ACC over concerns with the way it was handling reports containing initmate and sensitive details of claimants.

Scoop has been told that today, school children are employed by some ACC Branches to copy claimants files with the result that some claimants have been provided copies of sensitive material from other claimants files when they have received theirs.

After the Medical Council's findings were published in 1990, criticism of ACC and its practices shifted to more general matters.

On 12 September 1990 Dr Rodney Harrison, the lawyer representing woman who had filed medical disciplinary complaints against a doctor, called for a general investigation into ACC's procedures - in particular, he sought a full inquiry into the referral of claimants to medical practitioners generally.

The Sunday-Star Times newspaper and Scoop has recently carried similar stories about referrals to "hit men" ACC doctors - so nothing has changed.

In 1990, ACC said that although it monitored medical reports no one had spotted a problem, but with hindsight it admitted that it should have been alerted.

Well, helloooo!!!! Circa 2002, are any bells ringing in ACC yet?

Claimants in 2002 are not getting treatment and rehabilitation and claimants are still referred to ACC medical "hit men" who seem to be in for the fast ACC buck to write favourable reports for it. These doctors of the "first do no harm" brigade, even travel up and down the country and are paid handsomely with your ACC levy money to do it. Scoop understands that there is the odd Porsche now appearing on the scene

Anyway, back in 1990 the lawyer Dr Harrison subsequently wrote to the Minister of Health and the Minister in charge of ACC detailing his concerns and seeking an inquiry.

As of result of the publicity given to his concerns the inquiry was instituted and Former Chief District Court Judge Peter Trapski was appointed by ACC to conduct it.

Who paid for that inquiry? ACC.

And so should it now, because the present problems are owned and created by it, and it has the responsibility to conduct an independent inquiry preferably by a retired judge to fix it.

Like Judge Peter Trapski, a retired judge can write up his terms of reference, seek the input and consent of claimants who have concerns over a prolonged period and start examining the files.

Judge Peter Trapski's inquiry involved interviewing the claims history of just 65 male and female claimants between May and August 1991.

Today, there are hundreds who want redress - so it's even more urgent now than in 1990.

This is part of what Judge Peter Trapski wrote in his1994 report:

"Many claimants have subsequently told me they regarded the interview process as therapeutic."

"But through the process I obtained very forthright views of how a reasonably large number of claimants saw the delivery of the Corporation's services in retrospect and I had the advantage of being able to review in some detail the files of these people, who I regard in the main as a representative cross section of "ordinary" New Zealanders."

That is exactly the situation now. A representative cross section of "ordinary" New Zealanders are hurting and want help.

So, Select Committee and ACC, watcha gonna do about it?

Oh!, I forgot - no matter what your current level of injury or disability, 1500 of you have already been pre-selected by ACC this year for the "final solution" and are to be exited by stock-crate to the promised land of milk and honey where you will be miraculously cured by ACC's virtual reality.

I never believed in New Zealand that we would see an organisation which seems to be based on the Mad Hatter's Tea Party and run by the Three Stooges.

© Scoop Media

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