Wheelchair-bound, Multiple Sclerosis patient Melanie Trevethick is taking the health ministry in New Zealand to the High Court hoping to change its funding priorities. She wants the same financial benefits as those who get accident compensation.
Melanie Trevethick had to sell her house to pay more than $90,000 for a modified van. According to the existing provision, The Ministry of Health will provide up to $12,900 towards the cost of a van for those disabled by disease. This financial assistance too, will be given on condition the person is in fulltime work, education or vocational work.
The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), on the other hand, will pay the full cost, which can now be $110,000.
The difference in the financial package is because Melanie's disability is from illness and not an accident. She is taking the matter to court and is intent on fighting this "blatant discrimination" at the heart of the health system in New Zealand.
According to the Health Ministry if the cause of disability is recognized as a ground for compensation, it would have costly implications for the health sector and be an administrative burden.
Martha Coleman, from the Health Ministry said, "To establish discrimination, Ms Trevethick must point to someone else under that scheme that is getting a benefit that she is not."
Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson agreed that there was a disparity in provision for ACC claimants and those funded by the Health Ministry and it was unfair. She added that her Government had "done a lot to reduce those anomalies and inequities"
Representatives from health and disability groups including the Cancer Society, the Cerebral Palsy Society and Alzheimer's NZ, support Trevethick in her legal battle.
Melanie Trevethick now aged 51, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a progressive disease of the central nervous system, in 1996. She cannot stand up on her own. She uses a powered wheelchair and has a caregiver to help her in and out of bed.
She has a mentally disabled daughter Eve, 18, who has an immune deficiency disorder. Melanie needs to make frequent trips to a hospital in Hamilton for her daughter's sake, from where the two stay in a retirement-complex unit in Cambridge.