No surgery for ailing woman

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 20/01/2014
Rewa Eves
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ
DAILY STRUGGLE: Rewa Eves has been in constant pain since she fell during the magnitude 5.9 aftershock in June 2011, but has been denied surgery by ACC and the Canterbury District Health Board will not accept her on to the surgical waiting list.

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Rewa Eves used to be fiercely independent, but now she feels like "a useless old lady".

The 78-year-old New Brighton woman struggles to dress herself. She can no longer hang out her washing and has to rely on family for help.

She said she had endured constant pain since falling in her garden during the magnitude 5.9 aftershock in June 2011, damaging both shoulders and her right knee.

Even sleeping has become difficult.

When Eves wakes in the night, she takes a blanket into her living room and sleeps in an armchair.

"Sitting is a lot less painful than lying down," she said.

She cannot lift her arms and just dressing herself is a daily struggle.

"I have to fold myself in half and pull clothes over my head . . . I've got it down to a fine art now but it's all the little daily things that get to me."

ACC, however, has refused to pay for the surgery she needs to fix her shoulders.

"They told me it's a pre-existing condition . . . and apparently I left it too long after the fall to apply, but I didn't know whether I was coming or going."

The Canterbury District Health Board was unable to accept her on to the orthopaedic surgery waiting list.

A letter from the board's orthopaedic department said although it was "clear [Eves] will benefit from surgery", the board was unable to provide it.

It said public hospitals could only accept patients on to the waiting list if surgery could be provided within six months.

Dr Stephen Parkinson, an orthopaedic surgeon who works in both the public and private health sectors, wrote to Eves' GP saying it was unfortunate ACC had declined her application.

"She clearly has a reported earthquake-related accident . . . where she was thrown heavily on to both outstretched arms.

"Her shoulders were completely normal prior to this event with no previous history of pain or injury to her shoulders," he wrote.

Eves said she used to be an active woman who would tend her garden and go on bus trips around the country.

"I can't do those things any more and I get really frustrated when I think about it."

Eves said the thought of being forced to sell her home of 20 years and move into a rest home was something she tried to "push out of my head".

"I just want to be able to look after myself again."

A letter from ACC said her sprains and injuries were a result of her fall and were covered, but the treatment required - surgery to repair part of the shoulder - was not.

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Notes from the independent review showed Eves had not lodged an appeal within the required time-frame of three months.

Eves' GP, Kim Burgess, had provided written evidence and said her patient had been distressed since the earthquakes and had found it difficult to get around New Brighton.

Eves' review representative, Stevan Winter, said she had been overwhelmed by the ACC process and confused because of "age-related factors and the number of medical providers who treated her", including the Redwood Physio, a chiropractor, Parkinson and Burgess.

The reviewer did not believe these were good enough reasons for the delay.

Eves has appealed against the review decision and a second hearing would be held early this year.

ACC spokeswoman Stephanie Melville said ACC had covered Eves for the shoulder injury she sustained as a result of the fall.

"However, her surgery request was declined as the available medical information suggested that the surgery was to address a condition which was not an injury as a result of an accident."

The board had experienced a 34 per cent increase in the number of elderly Cantabrians having planned orthopaedic surgery since the 2007-08 financial year.

Patients not accepted on to the list were referred back to their GP for ongoing monitoring and patients could be re-referred if their condition worsened.

As of early last week, there were 480 patients on the board's orthopaedic surgery waiting list.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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