Hey folks,

Thought I'd share my recent experiences with the health system here in NZ (Canterbury).

The Accident

I fell down the stairs at home 3 yrs ago, landing hard on my butt and ever since my back has been terrible. First thing I did was register it with the local physio as an accident and fill in an ACC form wherein you describe what happened, where the accident happened etc. This ACC number is VERY important, if you have an accident and visit a doc or physio or A&E make sure you fill out ACC form. Generally, staff are good and will give you a form when they are aware it was an accident.

The Treatment/Diagnosis

Since that time I was treated off and on for terrible back pain with varying diagnosis along the way - I tried everything. 2.5 yrs later condition had got much worse, sciatica developed etc, despite treatment. I was referred, by my physio (who has been paid for by ACC since the accident) to an orthopedic consultant, who immediately put me through for an MRI (waited just a week or two for appt) and then 6 weeks later I was on the operating table. The consultations, scans, xrays and op totalled just under $15,000 NZD - all paid for by ACC.

The op was a discectomy for the hugely herniated disc that the MRI discovered.

The op was done 2.5 weeks ago and I am signed off for a total of 6 weeks.

The Hospital

Under ACC you are placed in private hospitals. I was admitted to Southern Cross in Christchurch. I have a terrible, terrible phobia about hospitals (as my friends well know lol) but I was really impressed by Southern Cross. I had a private room with ensuite, menu was great and included beer/wine, TV, balcony (!) and nice, modern decor - and NO hospitally smell !

BUT... and here's the only fly in my ACC experience ointment... I was rushed out the door as soon as able the day after the op. Although heavily morphined-up I remember my surgeon saying, "see you after lunch, I think we'll have you here one more night" with the nurse beside him. He left the room and the nurse was back within minutes telling me I could leave whenever I wanted and did I want her to call my husband. I felt like I ought to leave, that I was malingering, so I agreed. Within the hour my husband was there and they left me to attempt to walk out of the hospital with my husband yelling "will someone get her a bloody chair" (I wasn't able to walk, was drugged up, in huge pain and now getting very scared at having to sit in a car for an hour to get home when I'd been told no sitting position for a few days and no weight on lower back).

We have since complained to the surgeon in my follow-up appt and he was aware this happens and blames it on the hospital's demand for a good turnover (patients = $$). He has brought the topic up many times at whichever meetings he has, and asked that I put it in writing so he can pass it on. Needless to say he was most concerned at his handywork being undone.

As an aside, I was rushed back into hospital the week after by ambulance and taken to the main Chch A&E (not private). I have to say that after telling my story re rushed out of hospital with little advice etc many of the nurses said they hear that all the time and that private may be plusher but the level of care/attention is impacted by financial goals.

Income Compensation

I am self-employed and work from home. I hadn't actually expected any financial compensation but I am being paid 80% of what I would usually earn for the entire 6 weeks I am signed off, paid weekly. ACC staff were incredibly helpful and swift and payments began just 3 days after my op direct into bank account. I can't tell you how much stress that lifts from your shoulders.

ACC also rang me one week before the op to see if I needed any help at home after the op. I told her that my husband had taken time off and arranged to work from home for 4 weeks so I didn't qualify for home help as he's fit and able to hoover etc. lol

ACC called me twice in the week after I was home making sure there wasn't anything else I needed etc and also telling me that she hadn't received any travel expense requests for my claim and that I should go back over the last 3 years and claim for any trips to physio, consultants, xrays, MRI's etc - for me that's huge as a round trip is usually just over 100km and they give you 28cents/km!

All in all I've been really happy with ACC - as a self-employed writer I pay $777 a year in ACC payments and after this recent experience I feel I am getting a lot for my money.