ACC has apologised to a rape victim after a manager in charge of sensitive claims tried to blame her when a report containing medical information was altered. Instead, it was ACC that had censored important details from a psychiatrist's report about the rape and incest client.© 2013 Fairfax NZ News
When the client asked ACC last month to immediately correct the doctored document, the corporation said it would get back to her in 10 days' time. On Friday, ACC said its sensitive claims unit branch medical adviser, Peter Dodwell, would send a written apology to the rape victim for causing distress by trying to blame her for altering the medical report. The apology was received later the same day.
The senior ACC staffers involved in the botch-up were Dr Dodwell, and ACC team manager Karmal Mark. Dr Dodwell was asked by ACC to assess a medication claim from the client for treatment for complex mental health issues arising from her accepted ACC claim following years of systemic sexual abuse. But half of the psychiatrist's report was deleted by ACC and the psychiatrist's signature was cut and pasted from another page. The word "abridged" was inserted above Ms Mark's contact details before the report was sent to Dr Dodwell.
The censored material included descriptions of complex conditions that the client suffers from, the fact she required a combination of treatments, and that treatment was beyond a GP's expertise.
After receiving the report, Dr Dodwell wrote: "A line appears to have been deleted ... presumably by the claimant.
"Censorship of medical reports by a claimant is not acceptable and appears to breach the trust ACC demonstrated in allowing the claimant to bar direct contact with treatment providers."
The psychiatrist "clearly wrote something he considered significant to her management", Dr Dodwell said.
When The Dominion Post questioned ACC about the altered report, they delayed replying while they went back to the psychiatrist to confirm his original report was different to the abridged version. The psychiatrist confirmed the full report was his, not the abridged version, and told ACC: "I have now confirmed this on three occasions to ACC. I trust three confirmations are adequate".
Finally, on Friday the corporation confirmed to The Dominion Post that a letter of apology would be sent to the client.
The sensitive claims unit client said it was typical of ACC to make thinly veiled accusations of what could amount to criminal behaviour against clients but she provided documents showing ACC changed the report, not her.
The debacle "is more than outrageous, it is criminal and yet they have had the audacity to blame me for tampering with a medical report".
"I'm appalled, disgusted and very distressed and angry. I am so damn angry about it ... this is quite simply not acceptable," the woman said.
The woman is involved in a separate battle, with ACC having previously accused her of forgery. She said she would vigorously defend the case in court.
In an email, ACC complaints investigator Julie Phillips told the client she needed evidence and information from both sides for her inquiry. The client - who wishes to remain anonymous and has permanent name suppression - said that was rich considering ACC did not bother contacting her to ask if she had changed the medical report before making serious allegations.
Before being appointed medical adviser for the ACC unit dealing with its most sensitive cases, Dr Dodwell was sacked from his job in Australia. In March 2008, he was dismissed from his role as chief medical officer at HealthQuest, a medical screening body for bureaucrats, after he passed on information about a teacher applying for a job. An investigation by a former New South Wales deputy police commissioner David Madden said Dr Dodwell tried to adversely affect a decision to employ the teacher by saying she was being investigated by police for defamatory website postings about him.
"The way in which he [Dodwell] went about informing the Department of Education was inappropriate and not reasonable behaviour of a public official," the Madden report said.