Stroke-hit granddad slams EQC

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 15:58 21/09/2012
Allyn Bettridge
Stacy Squires

FUMING: Allyn Bettridge struggled to get a payout on his quake-hit home despite months of ill-health and the needs of his orphaned grandchildren.

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Quake-hit elderly residents have hit out at the Earthquake Commission (EQC) for its "appalling" communications and voiced their anger at the time it is taking to get claims settled.

About 200 elderly residents were at the Parklands Baptist Church today to meet EQC chief executive Ian Simpson and customer services general manager Bruce Emson.

Simpson started the meeting by admitting the commission had struggled to communicate effectively but said measures such as bringing call centre staff in-house had led to improvements.

Those comments were disputed by many in the audience who expressed their frustration at being "passed pillar to post" by the EQC in unsuccessful attempts to get their claims progressed.

The audience clapped when Parklands resident Alan Bettridge told Simpson the service offered by his organisation was "abysmal".

"Your organisation was unprepared and unprofessional," Bettridge said. "Your organisation is still unprepared."

Bettridge, who has custody of his two orphaned grandsons and has suffered several strokes and two bouts of pneumonia since the quakes, told The Press he had been battling for months to get the commission to pay out on his badly damaged Parklands home.

His doctor had written a letter to the commission pleading for his claim to be given priority because of his failing health, but the letter had gone unacknowledged and his claim, like that of many other elderly people in the area, had languished in the system for months.

Bettridge, who was recently released from hospital after suffering another stroke, said he managed to get progress on his claim only by confronting Emson at a public meeting a few weeks ago.

Two days ago, as a result of Emson's intervention, he had finally received his payout from the EQC.

"My heart goes out to those people here because some aren't prepared to battle them. It is appalling that they are being put through this kind of stress in their twilight years," Bettridge said.

Another elderly resident told Simpson his organisation was "the biggest joke" in New Zealand's history since former prime minister Rob Muldoon's "Think Big" projects.

"You are not capable of handling communications. We are sitting here going nowhere and you are here telling me all your problems. If your parents were in the same situation as some of these people ... it would not happen," he said.

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