A former Queenstowner who slipped on a wet hospital floor during a snowstorm and can’t work says she doesn’t know where to turn after her ACC appeal failed.
Christchurch woman Shalena Bunnage, 63, says she needs surgery for a shoulder injury caused by falling while she was working at Lakes District Hospital in 2011.
However, a district court judge, former chief coroner Neil MacLean, dismissed her appeal, backing ACC’s 2012 decision to stop paying for her treatment and halting compo payments.
It’s another blow for the 63-year-old, whose ACC review in 2014 of another claim from a 2009 fall at the hospital was denied.
Bunnage tells Mountain Scene she can’t work because her shoulder’s still injured.
“I don’t know what to do, I really don’t – I need help,” she says.
“I had to sell my jewellery to pay for [my treatment].”
She says it’s unfair ACC - and now the judge – relied on one expert’s evidence over that of several others.
Christchurch advocate Kevin Murray, who pushed Bunnage’s case in court, says bluntly: “Realistically she’s not going to work again.”
Bunnage was a full-time cleaner at Lakes District Hospital for contractor ISS between 2007 and 2011.
In August 2011, she slipped on a wet floor at the hospital while taking a cup of tea to a patient.
She fell under a bed, knocking her head on the door on the way down.
She went home but returned to work the next day.
Two months later she had physiotherapy and was diagnosed with “frozen shoulder”.
She was initially covered by ACC, in an injury claim handled by her company.
But payments halted on the advice from occupational medicine specialist Christopher Strack in February 2012.
The decision was reviewed and upheld a year later. Bunnage was prone to falls and had ACC cover for three falls, including a nasty one in December 2009 which led to several weeks off work.
Judge MacLean said he was swayed by Christchurch doctor Strack’s “comprehensive” reports.
Strack put Bunnage’s shoulder problems down to ‘DISH’ - diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis.
MacLean agreed, saying her problems “are wholly or substantially due to her underlying condition”.
That’s despite contrary evidence from two orthopaedic specialists and a rheumatologist who, Murray says, found DISH “had nothing to do with the injury”.
Murray says the rejection is a failure of ACC’s partnerships with companies, which allow employers to “isolate, separate and divide” injuries and make claims of underlying or pre-existing conditions.
“I think the injustice was done by having a mixed system and no continuity.”
ACC spin doctor Sarah Martin says it doesn’t accept the fact Bunnage’s injury was managed by her employer affected her entitlements, and she was able to challenge decisions by ACC and ISS to deny cover.
“Neither the reviewer (in relation to the claims managed by ACC) nor the district court in the appeal, considered that Mrs Bunnage suffered from the effects of her injuries.”