ACC Support Group Outraged at ACC Bullying
ACC Support Group Outraged at ACC Dunedin Branch Bullying
Members of Acclaim Otago (Inc), a support group for victims of personal injury, are outraged and disgusted with the way Milton man Peter Peterson was treated by ACC's Dunedin branch last Friday afternoon.
Mr Peterson worked as a carpenter until suffering a spinal injury in July this year. He needs medical treatment for that injury and receives weekly compensation while he is unable to return to work.
A couple of weeks ago Mr Peterson rang ACC's 0800 complaints line because he was unhappy with his case manager who, he says, treated him poorly in 2005 when he needed help from ACC to recover from a foot injury. As a result, Mr Peterson wanted a new, and competent, case manager to look after his latest claim.
The operator of ACC's complaints line told Mr Peterson that he needed to take his complaint to Eoin McDonald, the manager of ACC's Dunedin branch.
Mr Peterson did so, in writing. Mr McDonald's response, both verbally and in writing, was to refuse Mr Peterson's request for a change of case manager, dismiss his complaint, demand that he attended a meeting with ACC in Dunedin, and threaten to stop Mr Peterson's weekly compensation if he did not.
Mr Peterson contacted Acclaim Otago for help. Acclaim Otago put him in contact with Michael Gibson, an advocate with over ten years' experience representing people in their dealings with ACC.
At 2.00pm on Friday, 9 November 2007, Mr Peterson and Mr Gibson, accompanied by members of Acclaim Otago, attended ACC at its Dunedin branch office in McLaggan St.
ACC initially wanted to call the meeting off because Mr Peterson brought support people along with him, in spite of the fact that ACC's general advice sheets told him he was entitled to do so.
An ACC staff member referred to Mr Peterson's supporters from Acclaim Otago as a "sideshow". Acclaim Otago takes exception to these sort of comments and notes that the behaviour of its members at ACC's office was exemplary.
When asked why ACC had compelled Mr Peterson's attendance, its representatives replied that they needed his consent to obtain and discuss a medical report with its author and that they wanted to "discuss" a rehabilitation plan that required Mr Peterson to attend a physical exercise programme in Milton.
Acclaim Otago, Mr Peterson and Mr Gibson believe ACC's
stated reasons for the meeting, and its threat to stop Mr
Peterson's entitlements, constitute an outrageous abuse of
"ACC forced Mr Peterson to travel to its Dunedin office from Milton to discuss routine administrative matters", said Denise Powell, Acclaim Otago's spokesperson, who participated in the meeting as Mr Peterson's support person. "ACC often rings people up to discuss matters of this nature and it mails its forms to people all the time".
"There was no need for ACC to play the bully last Friday", said Ms Powell. "Our strong belief is that ACC demanded Mr Peterson's presence at its offices to force him to submit to a case manager whom he regards as incompetent and sign away his rights by threatening to stop his weekly compensation if he did not withdraw his complaint."
Acclaim Otago regards ACC's behaviour as abhorrent and in complete contrast to its proclaimed new culture and its stated purpose which is to help people cope with the effects of their injuries.
Mr Peterson has instructed Mr Gibson to lodge complaints with Maryan Street, ACC's new Minister, and its official complaints service. "Acclaim Otago backs Mr Peterson and Mr Gibson all the way", said Ms Powell. "We will not stand by and see injured people bullied by public servants, even if the current Government appears to condone that sort of behaviour."