ACC keeps Buller man waiting

By Kim Fulton of the Westport News

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A Buller man who has been plagued by medical problems since 2008 may have to wait at least another two months for an ACC review to be completed.

Meanwhile, Michael Blincoe of Hector has further support for his claim that chemical poisoning resulting from his work for contractor Doug Hood Mining at Stockton opencast coal mine has caused his medical problems.

The letter from occupational and environmental medicine specialist Dr David Black said Tergesol, a chemical Mr Blincoe used to degrease machines at the mine, could significantly impact cognitive processes.

Dr Black said his assessment suggested Mr Blincoe was suffering from cognitive impairment caused by Tergesol poisoning. However, Mr Blincoe needed a neuropsychiatric assessment, including psychometric testing, to clarify that.

Dr Black did not accept previous analyses, which said contact dermatitis was the only condition Mr Blincoe suffered from.

He added he did not consider reports by either the Department of Labour or ACC adequately recognised the extent to which Mr Blincoe had been exposed.

"If Mr Blincoe's description of the conditions of exposure are accepted then the conditions in which his employer instructed him and allowed him to work in posed a reckless disregard for his health."

Dr Black said there was a strong disconnect between the history he had taken and that which seemed to have entered the official records.

If the matter were to be pursued, the next step would be to attempt to clarify exactly what took place in the workplace, perhaps by a site visit and talking to other workers, the employer and the Department of Labour.

Last October ACC granted Mr Blincoe cover for occupational dermatitis resulting from Tergesol but not for neurological damage from solvent exposure.

In a letter to ACC, a Christchurch-based occupational physician said he didn't believe solvent exposure had contributed to Mr Blincoe's problems.

However, Mr Blincoe's GP, a specialist occupational physician in Greymouth and the chief medical advisor to the Department of Labour, all believed he had suffered significant chemical exposure.

Since Mr Blincoe spoke with The News in March, ACC has agreed to do neuropsychological testing. He underwent a comprehensive full day of neuropsychological testing recently after which the psychologist said she couldn't rule out neurological damage.

An ACC review is now due to take place where the corporation will decide whether to cover his claim. If it does so, more tests could be carried out and the doctors could work on what could be done to help him.

Mr Blincoe thought all the evidence for the review had been collected by November 2 and had expected a decision by the end of the month.

However, he said he had recently received a letter from a Dispute Resolution Services resolution co-ordinator saying his advocate had until November 23 to provide submissions on his behalf - "which we've already done, a long time ago".

ACC and Doug Hood Mining then had until November 30 to provide final submissions.

"Doug Hood aren't even involved in this one, they didn't turn up to the review and ACC rang me a couple of weeks ago to say they wouldn't be entering any more evidence."

A decision would be issued within 28 days of the hearing concluding on December 7.

Accounting for the Christmas period, it could be February before he had a decision, he said.

"They're stringing it out to make me suffer, that's the way I see it.

"I'm not going to have a very good Christmas."

-WPN ln

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