A Grand Forks woman who was struck by a car last spring and is temporarily using a wheelchair claims she has been left behind by ICBC and granted the “bare minimum” to get by.
Since her June 10 accident, which resulted in 28 broken bones, Dawn McKenzie has required physiotherapy, personal support, homecare services, help with dog-walking, and more.
A large portion of those services, however, was abruptly reduced last month after an ICBC care team assessment determined her function had improved and she no longer needed to be driven to her physio appointments by a home support worker.
ICBC proposed McKenzie begin using HandyDart to attend appointments over the winter, even though her physical injuries have left her unable to wear shoes, the bus can’t pull up onto the property and its scheduling is infrequent. The insurance provider later admitted to “gaps” in the assessment that led to the service reduction.
“In this case, we acknowledge that there were issues with that assessment and so we’re getting another assessment done,” Brent Shearer, ICBC spokesperson, said in an interview.
“Unfortunately that assessment didn’t fully explore the travel options available within her community, particularly door-to-door travel, which would be required in this case.”
McKenzie’s services were reinstated Friday after she reached out to media and sent emails to her MLA, the B.C. health minister, the CEO of ICBC, and several others.
“We are listening and we heard the concerns of Ms. McKenzie,” Shearer added. “We’ve gone back to the care team to better understand that assessment that had been done.”
Meanwhile, McKenzie said she remains without dog-walking services and the experience has left her frustrated and anxious. ICBC claims dog-walking was never part of her services and reimbursement for that was provided in error.
“I have lots of trauma from this accident,” McKenzie told Global News said from her Grand Forks home.
“I clearly cannot walk, I can’t walk my dog, and I just don’t know what to do now.”
McKenzie was driving to a local dog park and waiting to turn left at the intersection of Central Avenue and 19th Street around 1:15 p.m. on June 10 when she was rear-ended.
When she felt it was safe, she said she exited her vehicle to speak with the driver of the vehicle that struck her car. That’s when the vehicle moved forward, ran her over and took off — a frightening incident captured on camera.
“I flew up onto the hood of his vehicle. I then flew off of his vehicle and he ran me over again,” she recalled. “That is pretty much all I remember — I woke up the next day in Kelowna General Hospital.”
Read more: Grieving relatives of fatal crash victim question ICBC no-fault policy, lack of death benefits
According to Grand Forks RCMP, the driver was experiencing a “medical issue” both when he crashed into the vehicle and made contact with the other driver — McKenzie — in the intersection.
“The driver who caused the accident experienced a medical issue and he appeared to be suddenly incapacitated which would explain the tragic incident,” wrote Sgt. Darryl Peppler in an emailed statement. “We are not recommending criminal charges at this time.”
Peppler said a request for a review of his medical fitness was forwarded to the superintendent of motor vehicles, and he was issued a violation ticket for driving without consideration.
McKenzie said ICBC approved her claims within three weeks of the horrific crash and provided no expiration date on the 22 hours of weekly service that she would receive. In mid-November however, the insurer’s care team visited her house to determine whether she still needed all 22 hours of service.
McKenzie said she still has four broken bones, including three breaks in her back — one of several reasons she opposed taking HandyDart to her appointments by email to ICBC.
“I did not feel safe the way they wanted me to go to physiotherapy,” McKenzie said.
“Also, the service they want me to use — I can book a time, 10:30, to go to physio, but you can’t book a time to come back. There’s no guarantee, so I could be looking at sitting for up to three hours outside physio, waiting for them to pick me up.”
Read more: ‘Ignored and neglected’: B.C. father speaks out after five-year-old critically injured in crash
On Nov. 24, McKenzie was informed her services would be cut down to just six hours.
“I went into, of course, instantly crying. I’m stressed. I contacted my partner up north and he said he’s quitting his job and coming home,” she said. “I talked him out of that one, but it’s just like … depression.”
After her pressure campaign against ICBC, however, McKenzie said most services were restored with an “unlimited timeframe,” apart from the dog-walking. The package includes half an hour of personal daily care, 1.5 hours of daily homemaking, six hours of weekly homemaking, and two hours of weekly yard work.
“Given that there are a number of unknowns with regard to your ankle/leg and what the surgeon will recommend, we will leave everything as it has been,” an ICBC advanced support and recovery specialist wrote in a Dec. 2 email shared with Global News.
“As you improve, we will work with you to increase your independence.”
The email acknowledged challenges regarding “reliability and safety of transportation services in Grand Forks,” and said a re-evaluation will be done in mid-January.
Shearer said ICBC relies on medical experts to inform its customer care plans and develops new care plans based on their assessments. He did not explain how ICBC would avoid similarly flawed assessments in the future.
“We’re certainly listening and we want to hear from our customers. In this case, that’s what occurred. There was back and forth and as we’ve communicated to Ms. McKenzie, we’re going to get another assessment done to make sure we get this right.”
Before the accident, McKenzie said she lived the “carefree” life of an animal lover. That has now been taken away from her, as has her ability to visit and help care for her father.
She said the provincial government should feel “shame” for the way British Columbians who require support from ICBC are treated.
“I have paid insurance for 30 years with no accidents. I haven’t had a speeding ticket in over 20 years and I am left to fend for myself … it’s basically me, my dog, my cats, and my home support worker.”