GP visits hunger strike man

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Beneficiary Sam Kuha is continuing his hunger strike. Photo / APN
Beneficiary Sam Kuha is continuing his hunger strike. Photo / APN

A Far North GP says he has had many patients as desperate as hunger striker Sam Kuha.

Kaitaia-based GP Lance O'Sullivan visited Mr Kuha at his home outside Kaikohe on Monday evening to offer medical advice and show his support for the invalid beneficiary's stance.

Mr Kuha, who lost a leg and the use of one arm 20 years ago in an accident, says he has not eaten since September 14 when he was refused a $40 food grant by Work and Income. A few days later he returned to Kaikohe's Community Link office and smashed two windows with a sledgehammer to draw attention to his protest.

Under the welfare agency's rules Mr Kuha has to see a budgeter each time he reaches the quota of three special needs grants. But Mr Kuha says his $244 a week benefit cannot meet all his bills, however many times he sees a budgeter.

Dr O'Sullivan said Mr Kuha's decision to go on a hunger strike was extreme, but the situation he found himself in was common.

"I didn't go there intending to talk him out of what he's doing but to give a medical opinion and support the stand he's taken ... It's not the first time I've seen people getting desperate. He feels like he hasn't been listened to."

Meanwhile, advocate Ken Brown is negotiating with Work and Income on Mr Kuha's behalf.

Mr Brown had passed on Mr Kuha's demands for change in food grant policy, and had requested a review of his benefits. It had already transpired that a special benefit Mr Kuha was entitled to had lapsed. That had now been reinstated, giving him an extra $19 a week.

However, Mr Kuha said he would not lift his hunger strike until Work and Income policy had been changed for all beneficiaries.

He is expected to be charged with wilful damage and trespassed from Kaikohe's Community Link offices.

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