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Doctors put ACC bullies on blacklist

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Originally published in the Sunday Star Times



Doctors put ACC bullies on blacklist


Doctors are blacklisting some ACC case managers, whom they claim are seeking biased medical assessments to get patients off the scheme.

Professor Des Gorman, head of occupational medicine at Auckland University, said Accident Compensation Corporation case managers had approached him to produce this kind of report.

To avoid accusations of being "ACC hitmen", he said the university had compiled a blacklist of managers it would no longer deal with.

"As soon as we suspected we were dealing with managers who were after a particular outcome, that we were being used, we didn't deal with them. In other instances they have got angry when they didn't get the report they wanted."

Gorman's claims have been backed by medical experts across New Zealand.

Dr Harvey Williams, a Christchurch psychiatrist who has patients referred to him by ACC, described the problem not as "bad apples" but as a "bad culture".

"I think at times the ACC think they are buying a report rather than paying for a report. The whole ACC thing is to get as many people off their books as possible.

"When one case manager received a report there was a lot of disappointment because it wasn't what she wanted. I felt the best way to deal with it was for her to put it in writing - wisely she didn't do that."

Dr Peter Robinson, senior lecturer at Auckland Medical School and formerly the ACC's corporate medical adviser, now runs the Medical Protection Society. He revealed he too had blacklisted several ACC managers.

"I will now accept referrals from only about four case managers who I know and trust and have blacklisted at least half a dozen," he said. "There is an inference that certain opinions are expected and there are people whose opinions are not balanced.

"I had a recent situation where I was told by ACC to amend my report. I have gone back to them saying I will answer queries but I will not change my opinion."

There were suggestions case managers were given bonuses for putting people off the scheme.

Wellington occupational and aviation medicine specialist Peter Dodwell, who has handled hundreds of ACC cases, believes the managers are simply following orders.

Wellington barrister Hazel Armstrong, a former ACC board member involved in medico-legal litigation for more than 15 years, said it was increasingly difficult to get an independent medical opinion.

"The majority of case managers I have dealt with are looking for ways of getting people off the scheme."

But ACC chief executive Garry Wilson said he was unaware of any inappropriate behaviour by case managers.

"ACC uses more than 1000 doctors or medical academics for assessments of claimants and none has contacted ACC expressing concerns about the conduct of ACC staff," he said.

Any doctors who had concerns about ACC should go to him, he said.

"ACC finds it difficult to believe doctors or medical academics feel pressured by case managers."

ACC Minister Ruth Dyson refused to comment but National's ACC spokesman Dr Paul Hutchison insisted an investigation was vital, saying constituents had complained about ACC decisions.



Question: Did the then ACC chief executive Gary Wilson fix the long standing inappropriate behaviour issues by case managers or is it still as rife as what it was before 2002?


Many believed at the time he made the statement that he would sweep it under the carpet and hoped it would go away!



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