Family fight ACC for therapy pool

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2013
Jamie and Sally O’Mara
FAIRFAX NZ

LONG SAGA: Jamie and Sally O’Mara and Bugsy the dog at their home at Algies Bay, near Warkworth. Mrs O’Mara is battling ACC to get it to install a hydrotherapy pool for her disabled son Jamie, who missed having his vitamin K shot soon after birth, resulting im serious health complications.

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The family of a man trapped inside a body like a "torture chamber" are upset that ACC has refused to pay for a hydrotherapy pool to provide him with some relief.

Jamie O'Mara, 28, is possibly the most seriously injured ACC claimant in New Zealand - he has been unable to sit, stand or walk on his own since birth and needs round-the-clock care.

His injuries resulted from a brain haemorrhage caused by vital vitamin K shots not being delivered when he was born.

In 2008, Mr O'Mara had half his brain removed in an attempt to lessen the regular and violent seizures he was suffering.

His mother, Sally O'Mara, said they had been working with ACC since about 2000 to have a hydrotherapy pool built at their home.

In 2007, ACC agreed in principle to pay for the pool, which it expected to cost about $80,000.

But after a quote put the price at almost $240,000 ACC declined to pay, claiming it was not a cost-effective option. The family disagreed and got their own quote indicating the job could be done for $120,000. They asked for a review.

In the review, Mrs O'Mara said the pool was much safer for her son as he hated physiotherapy and often became physical with his carers. "Here's a man who just wants to walk and he's been locked into a torture chamber. That is what it is like for him."

The reviewer found that the quote obtained by the O'Maras was difficult to assess as it lacked detail, upholding ACC's decision.

The family then appealed, but in his written decision given last week Judge David Ongley also upheld ACC's decision not to fund the pool, saying there was sufficient evidence not to proceed.

He said, however, that the decision was not intended to suggest that a hydrotherapy pool should not be a key aspect of Mr O'Mara's rehabilitation.

Mrs O'Mara said she was still hopeful an agreement could be reached.

The pool was the only thing that helped with her son's epilepsy. It allowed him to walk unaided for up to an hour, instead of only 200 metres in a walker with the assistance of carers.

"In the summer he can go in and out of that pool and walk for three hours on his own, one hour at a time. It's the only thing that he can do independently; it will prolong his life and he loves his life, he's so deserving of it."

ACC had agreed to revisit the decision and look at further quotes.

ACC provides two 24-hour carers and has altered the family's home. They have 14 carers on rotation, for which ACC pays.

Mr O'Mara also receives $400 a week for "potential loss of income".

ACC declined to comment.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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