Daughter's ACC battle won but wait goes on

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 08/06/2013
Carla Grobler
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ

CONSTANT BATTLE: Carla Grobler, of Paraparaumu, and her daughter, Amelia Grobler Barrington, 3, who was left brain-damaged after a serious medical mishap.

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After winning a 3 -year battle with ACC on behalf of her brain-damaged daughter, Carla Grobler feels like the war is only just beginning.

In 2009, Ms Grobler gave birth to a girl in Christchurch Hospital. Soon afterwards, the baby, named Amelia, developed seizures and was diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy - a brain injury caused by a deprivation of oxygen.

Several hours before delivery, Ms Grobler was running a high fever. During the delivery, a doctor had difficulty turning the baby into the correct position.

A caesarean section was ordered but a midwife had forgotten to inform the anaesthetist that Ms Grobler had previously experienced problems with an epidural. This resulted in Ms Grobler being able to feel the scalpel as the procedure began, leading to another delay in delivery while a general anaesthetic was administered.

When baby Amelia finally arrived, she had to be resuscitated and soon began suffering seizures.

But ACC declined Ms Grobler's injury claim after it received medical advice that chorioamnionitis, a bacterial infection, could have been the cause of the injury.

That decision was upheld during an independent review, but Ms Grobler appealed against it in the District Court after gathering the opinions of several medical experts who believed the late delivery was the predominant cause.

Judge David Ongley has overturned ACC's decision, after ruling that, while chorioamnionitis probably contributed to the injury, the delay in delivery added significantly to its severity.

He ordered the corporation to pay costs of $3000 and awarded treatment cover for Amelia.

Ms Grobler told The Dominion Post she had been ecstatic when she heard of the decision, but since then had become frustrated with ACC's lack of communication.

"It was pretty obvious that ACC was throwing everything they had at this case . . . but since the decision they seem unwilling to go forward."

She struggled to get hold of her case manager and, when she did, the manager seemed to know little about what was happening, she said.

"We just got the feeling we're going to be fighting them for the rest of her life."

ACC spokeswoman Stephanie Melville said the corporation had not pursued the case through the courts for no reason. The decision to decline the claim was based on medical evidence, and upheld by the review process.

The family had decided to challenge the decision, as they were entitled to, and ACC accepted Judge Ongley's ruling, she said.

"These types of treatment injury claims are complex, difficult to determine, and often involve conflicting medical opinions."

Ms Grobler's lawyer, Maria Bagnell, said she was surprised ACC had fought the case as it easily fulfilled the new treatment and injury provisions that were introduced in 2005.

"I think it just shows how ACC fight these types of cases because obviously it's expensive for ACC if they lose, but it's not necessarily the right thing," Ms Bagnell said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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