Kirsty Wynn is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Asbestos sufferers thrown lifeline

Deanna Trevarthen.
Deanna Trevarthen.

Asbestos sufferers claiming accident compensation may have been thrown a lifeline when ACC Minister Nikki Kaye said she would review entitlement legislation.

Ms Kaye had been following the story of Deanna Trevarthen who has been declined ACC funding because she was not employed in an asbestos-related industry. Instead specialists believe the 44-year-old was exposed to the deadly fibres on regular extended visits to her electrician father's workplace.

On Friday night Ms Kaye said that as a minister she couldn't get involved in individual cases but she wanted to assure Ms Trevarthen and others she was going to look at the ACC law surrounding asbestos exposure.

"This is heartbreaking for her and her family and I feel for her. I feel very much for her and what she is going through," Ms Kaye said.

"ACC have to implement the law and that is what it has done, but I am going to have a look at the law around entitlement."

Ms Kaye said she was looking at ACC entitlement cases within the next three to six months and would include asbestos exposure.

"I have had some advice and am aware of the legal issue and I am going to look at this with regard to the law," Ms Kaye said.

"We know more and more because of medical research so this would be a case of looking at medical advances and if the law is still fit for purpose.

"Gradual process has been an area where there have been a range of developments. We have to make sure we don't stand still and ensure it fits the purpose.

"I'm definitely going to have a look at it."

When the law was written doctors believed only long-term exposure to asbestos caused harm, explaining the link to work in asbestos-exposed industry. Medical advances have revealed there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.

Ms Trevarthen returned to work part time this week to help save for expected medical bills of up to $200,000 for life-extending treatments additional to six courses of government-funded chemotherapy.

Ms Trevarthen's partner, Greg Robertson, said ACC legislation written in 2001 had let them down.

"The system has fallen down for us so essentially we are in a position where family may be called upon and houses mortgaged," Mr Robertson said.

"It is the first time Deanna has ever needed help, and it just isn't there. I'm disappointed in this country."

Stephanie Melville from ACC said the decision to withhold cover had been made in accordance with the legislation.

"We have contacted Deanna and Greg to fully explain the decision so they have both context and disclosure of the decision-making process," Ms Melville said.

"We've also given Deanna a full copy of her file to review."

Mr Robertson said Ms Trevarthen had returned to work three days a week but "was struggling".

"She is exhausted all of the time and all of her energy is going into maintaining weight, she has gone from 64kg to 48kg," Mr Robertson said.

He said she was working despite a tightening pain "like wearing a glove that is too small" in her chest.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 07 Dec 2016 07:00:02 Processing Time: 805ms