50 rack up 38 years on ACC

By Chloe Johnson

Heather Anderson has been living a nightmare for eight years after surgery for a small hernia operation cut her from her breast to bowel. Photo / Kellie Blizard
Heather Anderson has been living a nightmare for eight years after surgery for a small hernia operation cut her from her breast to bowel. Photo / Kellie Blizard

More than 50 claims lodged with ACC in the first year of its existence are still active, and have cost taxpayers an average of $829,000 in each of the intervening 38 years.

It has also been revealed 10 repeat claimants have racked up 2071 claims between them, averaging 207 claims each - a situation described as extraordinary by one expert.

Figures obtained by the Herald on Sunday through the Official Information Act reveal 52 claims for treatment and rehabilitation from between April 1974 and March 1975 are still active and receiving entitlements. The payments do not include weekly compensation for loss of salary.

ACC declined to provide more specific details about the claims or claimants, citing privacy concerns.

But, of these long-standing claimants, 40 per cent were for serious injury, 27 per cent were for multiple injuries and 33 per cent were for minor injuries, including stings, burns and broken bones.

Claims from the nation's top 10 repeat claimants came to $1.16 million. These claims included $441,000 for weekly compensation, $254,000 in social rehabilitation and $156,000 for medical treatment.

Massey University's associate professor of public policy Grant Duncan said the multiple claims were "extraordinary" but believed there would be valid reasons. "It does surprise me," Duncan said. "Many of those claimants could be people who play high-risk sports. I'd imagine a lot of rugby players would be among that, and netball."

Duncan said ACC operated on a no-fault system, so previous accidents weren't taken into consideration when assessing eligibility for new cover. He agreed with ACC's scheme to cover people who required long-term assistance for their injuries.

"It is a long time but many injuries have a permanent impact on people's lives and we have to remember this could happen to any of us."

ACC spokeswoman Stephanie Melville said the goal was to help clients regain independence and participate in everyday life. "Because of the serious nature of these injuries, ACC's focus is likely to be on helping them achieve a level of employment participation rather than an expectation of achieving full vocational independence," Melville said.

Minor surgery leads to eight years of pain, wrangles

Heather Anderson has been living a nightmare for eight years after surgery for a small hernia operation cut her from her breast to bowel.

The 61-year-old needed a hernia the size of a 10 cent coin removed from her upper abdomen.

A letter from the surgeon to ACC said he performed the extra surgery to prevent any ongoing problems, such as enlargement of the hernia. He claimed Anderson gave verbal consent but admitted he should have explained the different procedures better.

The $2500 operation and her pain medication were paid for by ACC.

But government help then stopped, she claims.

Anderson is one of 48,000 people whose ACC claims are declined each year.

ACC accepts 1.6 million new claims each year and, last year, it paid out $2.6 billion to injured Kiwis.

"My life is ruined," Anderson said.

ACC paid to have the error fixed and loosen a mesh implanted under her breasts. It also paid $104 a month for painkillers until October last year when it declared her mentally unwell and offered only seizure medication, which costs just $3.

Despite the botched surgery, her claim to ACC for further assistance and compensation was declined.

ACC would not comment on an individual case.

Tell us your ACC story, email: chloe.johnson@hos.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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