A former Queenstowner is urging injured people to push for full medical scans after being left $90,000 out of pocket by ACC.
Stephanie Milne has lost a court battle with the insurance corporation over three neck surgeries.
Milne – and her surgeon Nicholas Finnis, who actually wrote the ACC rulebook on such surgery – say problems with her vertebrae were caused by a fall from a horse in Glenorchy in 2000.
That was covered by ACC.
She says subsequent accidents and neck pulls, particularly in 2010, aggravated and worsened the condition.
But ACC doctors won’t accept that.
They say she has degenerative disc disease.
Milne appealed ACC’s decision not to fund the surgeries she had in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to fuse her C5 and C6/C7 vertebrae.
But Christchurch District Court judge Grant Powell favoured ACC’s experts.
His decision says there’s no evidence the original injury “led to long-term neck symptoms”.
Milne, 47, who now lives in Christchurch, tells Mountain Scene: “My advice to anybody who has a severe sprain to any body part is to push until it gets imaged.
“I would push, and push, and push until I got an MRI image – my understanding is they’re funded by ACC.
“It boils down to evidence.”
As such, lawyers say there’s little point in appealing the district court decision.
Milne says she’d only recently moved to Queenstown when the fall happened.
“I didn’t have a doctor so just went to physio. I thought it would settle down eventually and it did – but I didn’t get any clinical evidence of damage, no imaging.”
Judge Powell says he’s ultimately “unable to place any weight” on Finnis’ conclusions on what caused her spine damage.
He prefers the interpretation of four radiologists on imaging of her spine.
“Having looked carefully at the radiological reports, it is clear that the imaging that is reported upon is entirely consistent with multi-level degeneration, rather than discrete damage resulting from a covered injury sustained by Ms Milne,” Powell says in his August decision.
ACC spokesman Chris Ritchie declined to comment, even generally, without a privacy waiver from Milne or before Mountain Scene’sdeadline.
Milne says the whole process has been “absolutely horrendous” and she feels she’s paid twice, as she pays an ACC levy through work.
“It’s impenetrable. Unless you have the time, patience and nous you can’t get anywhere. I think that’s what they’re hoping.
“Even getting a [ACC] case manager is difficult. You go back to square one.”
She says she was lucky to be able to afford the surgery privately, paid through her inheritance.
“The public health bumped me off the list three times – I’d still be waiting.”
She’s still experiencing some pain and is working with a specialist.