Recently I saw a news item about a very skilled and talented musician, an oboist, who suffered a spinal cord injury, a broken neck, in a mountain bike accident.
This resulted in him spending many months in Burwood Spinal Unit in Christchurch, undergoing intensive physical rehabilitation in an effort to be able to walk again.
He was very lucky and, with the passage of time, the skills of his therapists and funding from ACC, along with his own fierce determination, he now has his life back, playing the oboe again in his orchestra.
We are lucky in New Zealand to have an injury rehabilitation and insurance scheme that covered this gentleman's costs of recovery.
There would have been significant costs, including his compensation for lost salary, initial treatment costs, the funding for the spinal injury rehabilitation programme, provision of very expensive equipment for his ongoing personal use, a vehicle for him to be able to access his workplace and community, possibly expensive housing modifications including a wet area bathroom and, initially, a fully-funded care package to help him and his family cope with his personal needs such as supervision, showering, perhaps home help.
The costs involved in the treatment of a client with a spinal cord injury can be many millions of dollars over the lifetime of the client, all funded by ACC which in turn is funded by various levies paid by taxpayers, employers, motorists and the self-employed.
Thankfully, more than 90 per cent of new claims in any one year to ACC are for simple treatment only with a small but significant percentage covering the costs of serious new injuries.
The ACC scheme came out of the Workers Compensation Act 1900 and the difficulties in obtaining suitable redress through a slow and litigious court system.
In 1967, Sir Owen Woodhouse published his report recommending a suitable injury and illness compensation scheme be set up for all New Zealanders.
The scheme started in April 1974 but only for the cover of personal injury.
Illness was another facet that was to be considered in the coming years. This never transpired, being dropped as an option in 1990.
ACC has now become part of the fabric of New Zealand life. It is the only compensation scheme worldwide that is "no fault". It covers all injuries, work or non-work and, compared to other schemes in developed countries, is the most generous and wide-ranging on offer.
Since 1974, ACC has had a rocky road with several different Acts of Parliament and a period of privatisation when part of it was known as Catalyst and private providers were encouraged to compete for the worker's compensation and rehabilitation aspect of the scheme.
Thankfully it is now back in the Government's hands as a Crown Entity, where it should stay, providing certainty to all injured New Zealanders.
ACC can suffer from a bad press from time to time and, as a holder of private information, cannot defend itself as easily as it should be able to. Like any insurance scheme, ACC has rules about cover and entitlement. This aspect has founded a small cottage industry in the field of ACC litigation.
This is a good thing normally as clients do need to have a legal channel to challenge decisions made by ACC as they do for any other Crown Entity or private insurance scheme.
Needless to say, there are many people who, for whatever reason, feel slighted because of their perceived treatment by ACC.
Some with very good cause but most because they just do not fit the criteria for cover under the particular Act in force when they have an issue.
In the scheme of things, these people are small in number but vociferous in action. They create an aura that ACC is an uncaring organisation which, nowadays, is as far from the truth as it is possible to be.
Our oboist has, thankfully, had a brilliant recovery and has regained his life back. He will have ongoing help for rehabilitation and treatment, funded by ACC for the rest of his days. He will remain a client with ACC for all his injury-related needs, same as any client who suffers an injury that may have ongoing consequences in the future.
ACC has a cohort of clients with very high needs arising from injury. These clients receive daily care, weekly compensation until 65 years of age, entitlement to assessment for equipment, vehicle and housing needs and ACC is timely in its response to them.
No waiting for weeks for someone from the local hospital to ring which, sadly, can happen occasionally for non-injury-related rehabilitation needs.
Is it time that this model of rehabilitation and treatment was applied to all with health issues, not just people with physical injury needs?