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Saturday, 03 March 2018 07:53

ACC accused of return to bad old days

Su Nicholson had two operations on her back which left her with a 'flat-back' or no curve in her lower spine. Su Nicholson had two operations on her back which left her with a 'flat-back' or no curve in her lower spine. Picture / Brett Phibbs

A retired judge who investigated the Accident Compensation Corporation more than a decade ago wants a new inquiry.

ACC claimant Su Nicholson wrote to former Chief District Court Judge Peter Trapski seeking an inquiry.

Mr Trapski's reply this month says: "I have heard of a number of similar cases and it distresses me that the corporation has - long ago - reverted to its old practices."

Ms Nicholson and her claimants' group should petition ACC Minister Ruth Dyson for an inquiry and possibly Prime Minister Helen Clark or "Parliament itself".

"That could be particularly powerful within the close political climate that now exists in this country,"said Mr Trapski.

"I wish you well as I believe that some action is well overdue."

ACC lawyer Gerard McGreevy said Mr Trapski's comments were surprising, sad and uninformed.

The Weekend Herald approached Mr Trapski, of Tauranga, to expand on them, but he declined.

His 1994 report said Auckland psychiatrist Dr Laurie Gluckman was used as the corporation's "hitman" by staff fed up with clients "ripping off the system".

ACC commissioned the inquiry in 1990 after the Medical Council found Dr Gluckman guilty of professional misconduct and suggested some corporation procedures for handling and obtaining sensitive medical reports were inappropriate.

Mr Trapski's recommendations included ensuring medical opinions were independent.

Ms Nicholson, a former real estate agent who has shifted to Queensland's Gold Coast, said yesterday that she suffered serious back pain, could not work and received earnings-related compensation from ACC.

"I have trouble standing up," she said. "On bad days I have to use a walking stick."

Now aged 54, she was injured in a sailing accident in 1985 and while playing tennis in 1989.

She had two back operations in 1991 that left her with "flat-back syndrome" - virtually no curve in her lower spine.

ACC later found this was caused by medical misadventure.

She said ACC investigated allegations of fraud made against her and she was tailed by private investigators with a video camera.

A specialist who had previously supported her ACC claim re-assessed her for the corporation and, after seeing the video, changed his mind and ACC stopped her payments.

But they resumed this year after she sought a review.

"If they want to film me they can, but they need to give honesty, not just selective stuff."

She said the video showed her washing her car, but not going to her physiotherapist half an hour earlier, despite the investigators' report indicating that she was under surveillance then.

It also showed her getting into her car, but not getting out, which was more difficult and took her much longer than someone without an injured back.

Mr McGreevy said the video was comprehensive, honest and straightforward.

It showed a woman of considerable capacity, and it convinced the specialist and ACC that she was capable of some light work.

The review of her case found that ACC was premature in deciding she could do 40 hours' work a week.

Mr McGreevy said Ms Nicholson had complained to an ombudsman, who found ACC had acted properly, but he was yet to rule on the handling of the fraud allegations.

ACC Minister Ruth Dyson said she was "interested to know" the reason for Mr Trapski's views. She had asked her staff to contact him to see if he was "willing to share his concerns".

First published by the New Zealand Herald on the 14 Oct, 2005

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