ACC 'pulls the rug' on disabled child

LENGTHY BATTLE: Austin, 4, with mum Helen Manning. Austin’s family have fought for four years to have his disability recognised by ACC.
LENGTHY BATTLE: Austin, 4, with mum Helen Manning. Austin’s family have fought for four years to have his disability recognised by ACC.

A 4-year-old born with brain damage has had his medical cover stripped by ACC.

Austin Manning was born with an injury that caused small areas of his brain to die. He is dependent on his wheelchair and a disability van to get around, and needs to be strapped into special chairs to sit up.

His family have fought for four years to have his condition recognised by ACC, arguing that inadequate treatment in Tauranga Hospital immediately after his birth created his condition.

But ACC says it was an inherited result of mum Helen Manning's poor diabetes control during pregnancy, and so is outside the scope of its coverage.

Last year, the Mannings succeeded in having ACC's decision not to fund Austin quashed. For about a year, ACC assisted the family, but on August 31 it had the review overturned on appeal.

Manning, who is currently having treatment for breast cancer, said last month's decision in Wellington District Court had been a huge blow for Austin, and for the family.

"He can't walk and will never be able to walk . . . He gets around by sort of pulling himself on the floor.

"It's devastating. You just look at this little boy, and they forget they're actually talking about a human being and the rest of his life.

"And in the middle of all this, I have just had cancer."

Manning, who had a mastectomy in October, recently finished a second round of chemotherapy in Tauranga and had to travel to Hamilton for radiation therapy.

Meanwhile, Austin has had operations to correct his eyes and requires regular X-rays on his hips, which doctors have said will also require surgery. He needs regular visits from a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, an eye specialist and a psychologist.

Manning said her boy was again being let down by the system all over again. "We worry about him and the future. But they seem to do everything in their power to stop this little boy getting cover.

"They've purchased us a van, and I don't know what happens now. What are they going to do. Rip it all away?"

Austin's lawyer, John Miller, said the fight would go on.

"You have the ACC cover and the assurance that that brings, and then suddenly the rug is pulled out from under you.

"We could go all the way to the Court of Appeal," he said.


Austin was born with periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), a white-matter brain injury in infants that causes small areas of the brain to die.

His cerebral palsy means his motor skills are severely damaged, but his cognitive skills are unaffected. He is "very, very intelligent", Manning says.

Manning, who was 37 at the time of her son's birth in Tauranga, has type 1 diabetes, which caused significant birthing problems for Austin. He suffered foetal distress in the womb and was macrocosmic - "a baby of significant bodily size".

He was treated for "quite severe hypoglycaemia" at birth in Tauranga. But when his condition didn't improve, he was transferred to Waikato Hospital.

His hypoglycaemia wasn't brought under control until 11 hours later.

The family contend that the failure of doctors to treat his hypoglycaemia contributed substantially to his brain damage.

ACC claims Austin was born with his condition, which was passed on from his mother, and so is not covered for accident compensation. Doctors sourced by ACC say the treatment at Tauranga Hospital would not have affected the outcome of his condition.

The Dominion Post