Bay injury claims mostly home-based

By Cassandra Mason

SAFETY FIRST: The most common cause of injury in Hawke's Bay was reported as loss of balance.PHOTO/FILE
SAFETY FIRST: The most common cause of injury in Hawke's Bay was reported as loss of balance.PHOTO/FILE

More than half of Hawke's Bay injury claims made in the past year were for accidents that happened at home, ACC figures show.

Claims made for falls are on the rise as the region's population ages, a local physiotherapist says.

The figures come during ACC's Safety Week as Minister Judith Collins warns people to beware of seemingly innocuous everyday hazards.

ACC's district comparison reports showed that from June last year to June 2013 more than half of the injuries sustained in Hawke's Bay happened at home, totalling close to $25.1 million in claims.

The number of claims related to falls was growing, with the rate in Napier and Hastings about 1850 claims per 10,000 people - about 400 higher than the national average.

The most common cause of injury in Hawke's Bay was reported as "loss of balance", followed by lifting and carrying.

Havelock North Physiotherapy practice manager Vivien Taylor said about 80 per cent of the clients she treated hurt themselves at home.

"Most injuries are home-based or recreational. A lot of people [hurt themselves] lifting or shifting furniture. They go to lift a box on a high shelf and they twist their back.

Others fell off ladders and some slipped in the shower, she said.

"Gardening is a big one, pulling out things that are too big, [and] pruning."

The high rates of fall-related injuries could be put down to the region's ageing population, Ms Taylor said.

"We have a much older clientele here ... old people lose their balance and they fall. Hawke's Bay has a lot of retired people."

Despite this, overall claims costs in the region are dropping, with ACC paying out about $97 million to claimants in Hawke's Bay in the year to June, compared with almost $115 million in 2008/2009.

Napier's injury claim rate - the number of claims lodged per 10,000 people - has dropped over the last five years to 4546, but is still about 700 higher than the national average.

Nationwide, injuries cost the country $7 million a day.

ACC's annual report showed it accepted 1.7 million new claims in the 12 months to June 2013, for a total cost of $2.6 billion.

Claims expenditure was $208 million under budget, reflecting a reduced number of claims and better rehabilitation performance, the report said. Medical treatment accounted for $449 million, while $234 million was paid out for hospital treatment and elective surgery.

Compensation for lost wages was the highest cost, at $759 million, while $406 million was paid out for "social rehabilitation" like home help, child care, and house modifications such as wheelchair ramps.

In the year to June 2013 more than 32,000 people had surgery, 27,594 were injured while cycling, 6210 were injured from dog bites and 11,565 were injured from insect bites.

Knees and shoulders were injured most often, and more than 400,000 people claimed for physio treatment.

More than 42 per cent of new claims were the result of injuries sustained inside the home.

Ms Collins said ACC's Safety Week, which started last Monday, was aimed at raising awareness of safety risks - especially during "seemingly harmless" activities. "This year we are reminding New Zealanders that they don't have to be out on the rugby field or skateboarding to be at risk of an injury.

"While sport and recreation claim numbers are an ongoing area of focus, a significant number of accidents happen during routine and seemingly harmless activities."

Trips and falls were the biggest cause of injuries in New Zealand so it paid to take precautions around things like stairs, dog leads, rugs and skipping ropes, Ms Collins said.

"I've encouraged the corporation to put a greater, more evidence-based focus on injury prevention because I know it has the capability to be more than just an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff."

New Zealanders should take a look at safety in their own daily routines, she said.APNZ

- Hawkes Bay Today

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