26 Sep 2017

Tough questions put locals off gastro outbreak compo claims

6:39 am on 26 September 2017

Locals hit by Havelock North's campylobacter outbreak say applying for money from a compensation fund is proving to be a "onerous" task.

It is hoped money from the compensation fund set up to help those with long-term illnesses arising from last year's campylobacter outbreak will be distributed within a month.

No caption

A vigil was held in Havelock North last month to commemorate the one year anniversary of the town's gastric illness outbreak. Photo: RNZ / Jemma Brackebush

The Hastings District Council and Hawke's Bay Regional Council each contributed $100,000 to the compensation fund and applications closed on Friday.

The district council revealed yesterday that 37 people had sought pay-outs, but some of those applying told RNZ they gave up because there were too many hoops to jump through.

Lucy Dobbs, who runs a marketing company in Havelock North, said she and her son both become ill twice as a result of the contamination.

She began an application for the compensation fund, including pages and pages of information from her son's school showing the sick days he took because of the bug.

"As I recall we were required to go and see our doctor and get them to help write a letter or confirm that part of it and then if we'd been to see a specialist we had to get them to do it as well.

"[We also had to] quantify the loss we'd experienced whether it be business costs or any loss and had to have receipts and proof to show that."

Ms Dobbs said being self-employed made that part of the application very difficult to complete and in the end it was just too hard and she gave up on the process, because she felt she was fighting a losing battle.

"I suppose they they had to have criteria, but that's hard to quantify when you've had a sick family. How can I quantify the days off work I've had? That's a loss of earnings and we're talking three to four weeks a term this year."

Kerry Mackintosh with her grandson Lachlan.

Kerry Mackintosh with her grandson Lachlan. Photo: Supplied

The bug also affected Kerry Mackintosh badly.

She was struck down twice with campylobacter and eventually developed Guillain-Barre syndrome and reactive arthritis.

Ms Mackintosh heard about the compensation fund but initially was reluctant to apply, given it was ratepayers' money and she had heard of many young families who were badly affected.

She was also put off applying because she heard those doing so had to complete a huge amount of paperwork, but she said people kept encouraging her to give it a go.

"When I was asked several times ... I thought I'd go and have a look at the form and it did look quite onerous.

"If you've got your own business, those sorts of situations don't fit into any boxes and I'll be interested to see what the experience was like for those who did apply and were successful."

The acting Mayor of Hastings, Sandra Hazelhurst, said the council never intended to make the process difficult for people.

She said although applications closed on Friday, she was encouraging Kerry and others in a similar position to seek help from the council.

"We have staff here administering the fund and helping people through it and I'd like to encourage that lady to come in.

"There is no way we don't want everybody to have a chance of applying. If she's finding it difficult, one of our staff could help her do what is required."

Those who have applied for compensation will now be seen by an independent GP and a panel of representatives from the community and local authorities will then allocate the funds.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs