Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Long-range battle with ACC over girl's care

Stephen Carter with Paige, who was born with cerebral palsy.  Photo / Alan Gibson
Stephen Carter with Paige, who was born with cerebral palsy. Photo / Alan Gibson

The family of a girl left severely disabled after a medical misadventure is fighting a battle with ACC after the agency axed their overseas care payments.

Since Paige Laming was born with cerebral palsy 13 years ago, her English-born mother Donna Carpenter has been battling to give her the best quality of life possible.

It has meant Mrs Carpenter and her husband Stephen, who live in the UK, cannot work while they attend to Paige's round-the-clock needs.

They say they would accept their lot without complaint if it weren't for the role of a New Zealand midwife in the birth.

"But it's just the principle," Mrs Carpenter told the Herald from a hotel room in Tauranga.

"I didn't ask for a midwife to help stuff up my child, I didn't ... and it's changed our lives totally.

All of this helped break down my marriage, we lost friends around us and it was a struggle for my children because I spent so much time in hospital."

After Paige's traumatic birth in Whakatane in 1998, Mrs Carpenter complained to the Health and Disability Commissioner that her midwife had failed to properly manage her pregnancy and birth.

The commissioner upheld her complaint and after an independent obstetrician's report, ACC found Paige's cerebral palsy was attributable to a "mismanagement" of Mrs Carpenter's labour and delivery.

Overseas attendant care payments approved by ACC gave Mrs Carpenter enough to live on as she looked after Paige, but after personal circumstances forced her to move from Australia to England, her home country, the money stopped coming in July last year.

ACC's decision to cancel payments - made on the basis that Mrs Carpenter had left her then-partner in Australia and shifted to the UK - was challenged in the Court of Appeal.

The family's lawyer, John Miller, argued there was no logical reason why Paige could not receive the same payment in the UK.

"There is absolutely no medical justification for this removal of attendant care - it seems entirely a cynical cost-cutting measure against the most vulnerable of claimants," he told the court.

But the bid was rejected and Mrs Carpenter was told Paige would be able to receive care if she returned to New Zealand.

When they wrote to Associate ACC Minister Craig Foss, his response served to echo ACC's position.

Their hopes are now pinned to a review still in progress.

Mrs Carpenter said their lives had been reduced to a stressful existence of travelling back to New Zealand - where payments could be made if she visited each month - and trying to get the decision overturned.

Her flight back with Paige last week was their fifth trip this year.

"We use the money simply for our travel to come back again. Obviously it's been difficult for our other children who have to stay back home."

She said that shifting back to New Zealand was not an option, as their support network was in the UK.

"I have all of my family in the UK - my aunt, my uncle, my grandma, my mum, my dad, everyone ... I've got nobody here.

"When it comes down to it, we don't want anything more than attendant care. If we can leave the country and get that reinstated, then we can pursue treatment that is going to help Paige's life, and doesn't ACC promote that?"

An ACC spokeswoman said it was not appropriate to comment on the case before an upcoming review.

- NZ Herald

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