Go back to work, ACC tells shooting victim

17:00, Jul 06 2010
Ashley Moore
HIGH STRESS: Ashley Moore has been told her ACC payments are to stop.

A shooting victim suffering such severe post-traumatic stress she cannot leave the house alone, has had her ACC support cut as the agency says she is ready to return to work.

Ashley Moore, 19, now vomits after being in public and takes up to 11 different pills a day, after a pellet tore through her cheekbone when she was shot in January last year.

The incident happened at the Hataitai Velodrome, as young people gathered and a gun was passed around.

After the shooting, Ms Moore was pushed to the ground, her head was kicked twice and her cellphone was stolen. She needed surgery for her injury and was in hospital for three days.

"If it hadn't been for her chubby cheeks, she wouldn't be here today," her mother Sharon Moore said.

As a result of the shooting, Ms Moore had lost peripheral vision in her right eye, which disturbs her balance, has very little sense of taste or smell and gets frequent "piercing" migraines.

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Anxiety set in when she tried to go back to her automotive engineering course four weeks after the incident, she said. "I just can't do people."

The problems had been getting progressively worse without treatment, she said. She had a few sessions with an ACC-registered psychologist who took her to the velodrome and left her. After the traumatic experience, she refused to go back and ACC had not provided a new counsellor.

A few months ago a man followed Ms Moore from a bank, before trying to drag her into his car.

Last month, a man was acquitted of her shooting when it could not be proven he pulled the trigger.

These events had deepened her anxiety and depression, she said. "I was the most bubbly person, laidback, could handle anything, take anything . . . then this happened."

Mrs Moore said her eldest daughter, who had been "our loud, funny one", could not be left alone and she feared for her future.

Though ACC acknowledged Ms Moore's post-traumatic stress disorder in May, which warranted a payment of $400 a week, they had now told her the payments would cease. This was despite a medical certificate from Ms Moore's GP, who had treated her since she was two, stating that Ms Moore would not be fit to work until at least mid-August.

ACC spokesman Laurie Edwards said Ms Moore could qualify for counselling, but a review last month by ACC doctor David Waite, who saw her once in September 2009, said it was best Ms Moore returned to work.

It was illegal to pay her when she did not need it, Mr Edwards said. "It's not just because of the legal thing, but because ... it might actually be good for her to re-engage with normal life and normal society."

Dr Waite's review was based on his September consultation and the February review of Auckland psychiatrist Pieter van der Westhuizen, who Ms Moore met at the airport after he flew in for the appointment.

Mental injuries did not get worse, Mr Edwards said. "Post traumatic stress disorder ... doesn't [just] go away or come back." Her physical injuries were no longer major, and counselling support was "not off the table".

Ms Moore was entitled to a review of ACC's decision.

The Dominion Post