ACC finally covers diabetic's claim after years-long battle to stay alive

For the last seven years, west Auckland grandfather Steve Peita has been fighting a debilitating battle to stay alive.

It's a battle his whānau is convinced he could've avoided had his doctors listened to them when he asked to be diagnosed with diabetes.

Around 2006 was when Steve and his wife Jane Peita first noticed something was wrong with his health. He was lethargic, had a major sugar craving, and constantly had to urinate.

Steve put it down to his 60-hour workweeks, but Jane believed he was showing the symptoms of diabetes.

So the couple went to Steve's doctor and tests were run to find out what was wrong.

Steve's blood test results showed he had a fasting blood glucose level of 9.6 mmol/L. Anything higher than 7 mmol/L indicates possible diabetes.

"Based on the bloods they ran, he was also classed as diabetic and he needed to be medicated immediately," Jane tells The Hui.

"Which we thought cool, this is it, we were right."

But Steve's doctor believed that his readings weren't high enough, and thought that with a few lifestyle changes he could go on without diabetes medication. This meant Steve was never prescribed any.

At the time, doctors noted Steve was morbidly obese - he was 6ft tall and 117 kg.

"I didn't believe that just losing weight was going to make massive changes," Jane says. "But, you know, he was a doctor."

Although he did lose some weight, his symptoms would come and go, and Jane says doctors promised to keep an eye on Steve's condition.

But the Peita whānau says this never happened, despite him being seen by numerous GPs at the same practice over the years.

"Nobody picked up on anything or was alarmed about what they'd seen," Jane says.

"Did they look? Did they read his notes? I don't think so."

Thinking everything was fine, Steve took up a lucrative job as a linesman in Australia and the couple moved over to start a new life.

But just a year into their new life, Steve suffered a major heart attack and his fasting blood glucose levels were sky-high at 22.0 mmol.

"They said, 'If you had the medicine back then, you wouldn't have been here'."

The couple would be forced back to Aotearoa, and with Steve unable to work Jane became his full-time carer.

He went from earning up to thousands a week to struggling to make ends meet on a benefit.

The Peita whanau were forced to sell their family home of 20 years.

ACC finally covers diabetic's claim after years-long battle to stay alive
Photo credit: The Hui

In desperate need of help, Steve turned to ACC for answers and financial support.

He says this wasn't an easy thing to do for such a proud man.

"Even now, even though sometimes it's hard, I don't want to go and ask anyone for anything."

The Peita whānau believed they had a strong case.

Their claim centred on Steve's doctor's failure to diagnose and treat him for diabetes - leading to his heart attack and subsequent health problems.

But ACC didn't see it this way and they declined the claim.

After having their claim denied multiple times the family turned to ACC advocate Daniel Wood for support.

Once Wood looked into Steve's records, he realised he had a strong case.

"Well, a treatment injury failure to treat is all about what the doctor didn't do, but more importantly what the doctor should have done."

In this case, what the doctor didn't do is prescribe the medication Steve needed.

Wood said he was disgusted at how ACC was treating Steve.

"The narrative was that Steve was to blame, the family were to blame.

"He didn't have his medication because he didn't go get this test or he didn't take his medication."

But there's been a dramatic U-turn a week after The Hui made contact with ACC - and Jane says it will cover the entirety of Steve's claim.

"We've been given a verbal apology over the phone and told that he will be getting cover for treatment injury and failure to treat diabetes."

The Peita family is still working out what support Steve will be entitled to. However, Jane says it's been an exhausting battle.

"It's a fight to the death and some people do die before ACC comes to the party."

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and NZ On Air. 

ACC finally covers diabetic's claim after years-long battle to stay alive