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Howard's End: Televised ACC Failures Just The Tip…

The two ACC failures towards a paraplegic and a tetraplegic reported on TV 3's 20/20 last Sunday and on Holmes last night, are not isolated incidents but are just the tip of an iceberg of systemic failure by an organisation who has responsibility for care and recovery of injured New Zealanders. Maree Howard writes.

Over the past 18 months this Scoop correspondent has spoken to around 150 claimants about the bad treatment and practices ACC has shown towards them. Contact has also been established with the growing number of ACC Support-Action Groups who are now representing those injured people who have been marginalised by ACC and left without a voice.

At the same time, national and regional television, radio and print media and been railing about ACC's poor performance of injured people for whom it has responsibility to provide rehabilitation and care. That's its motto "Prevention - Care - Recovery."

It is not enough, as ACC Minister Ruth Dyson said on National Radio this morning over the case of Hawkes Bay tetraplegic John Jury that; " ACC will be taking responsibility for anything that should have been delivered that hasn't and will be fixing it."

Mr Jury has been injured for 27 years following a motor vehicle crash and has since been left being looked after by his 11 year-old grandson, Luke Jury, who cannot remember when he started looking after his grandfather or when he last went to school. That boy is a New Zealand hero but he has been left by ACC without an education and a childhood.

Ms Dyson is now promising a rapid response to resolve the situation and an ACC case manager has already been appointed, she says.

She told National Radio that it was not right that someone should be forced to go to the media in a bid to get help.

She's right on that. But many claimants are, and many more will.

It's now got to the stage where injured claimants are lodging cases in the High Court about ACC's bad and adversarial behaviour towards them and are keeping the media informed at every step of the way as the cases progress through the system.

And the media are becoming very interested - after all, it could be them or a member of their family tomorrow.

In Mr Jury's case, he was being case-managed - or should that be mismanaged - by ACC's Remote Unit in Wellington who have their own case managers. So it begs the question why that appointed case manager was not intimately involved and knew exactly what was happening?

The Remote Unit was establsihed to handle what ACC itself perceived as threatening or difficult behaviour by a claimant. How it can be determined that an immobilised tetraplegic laying on his back, could threaten anyone defies logic and common sense.

Even if he was verbally threatening that is no excuse for abandoning him.

What this incident does highlight is that ACC does not have sufficiently trained and experienced staff to manage people who may have personality difficulties from their accident. Anyone laying on the back immobilised for 27 years would be very likely to have some anger and personality problems - I know I would.

The TV 3 20/20 programme last Sunday highlighted the case of Richard Maxwell, an injured person who subsequently developed paraplegia. This man has been left to sit on a make-shift toilet in his garage because ACC cannot decide exactly what his injury is and will not authorise home modifications.

That's strange because it has accepted part liability. Can you believe that ACC actually pays to transport Mr Maxwell 3 days a week from his home to take a shower at a nearby private hospital rather than arrange for shower modifications to his home which would allow access with his wheelchair?

His wife receives a miserly three hours a week of home help and is left carrying the burden the rest of the time.

Mr Maxwell said ACC has taken his soul and he feels that he is on trial every day he deals with ACC.

I currently have another similar case in front of me as I write this which has not yet hit the television screens.

This correspondent has case after case of incidents from claimants and lawyers where ACC is not providing the rehabilitation and care that it is required to do under its legislation. In fact, there are examples where even though ACC has the legal obligation to provide rehabilitation it has deliberately set out to deny it and placed obstacles, brickwalls and hurdles in front of the injured person wherever and whenever it could.

The Courts are now clogged with such cases and it is taking upwards of three months for a judge to deliver a decision. But ACC doesn't seem to care because it's levy-payers money not their own.

These two recent case highlighted by televisions 20/20 and the Holmes Show are but the tip of a giant iceberg and yet the politicians for mysterious and spurious reasons, will not authorise an inquiry into ACC.

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