Invalid seeks dental help from 'inhumane' Winz

Invalid beneficiary Paul Whiteman wants Work and Income to stop his pain and lend him money to remove his rotten teeth. Photos by Stephan Jaquiery.
Invalid beneficiary Paul Whiteman wants Work and Income to stop his pain and lend him money to remove his rotten teeth. Photos by Stephan Jaquiery.
An invalid beneficiary wants an ''inhumane'' government agency to stop his pain and lend him the money to remove his rotting teeth.

Former mechanic Paul Whiteman (42), of Dunedin, said he wanted to get better and get off the benefit.

In the past two years, he worked hard to rid his body of the hepatitis C he contracted from a blood transfusion.

''It was a battle and a-half.''

The drugs he injected to treat the virus had damaged his immune system and rotted his teeth, which became infected, he said.

''I can't eat and the throbbing is just horrendous.''

He called Work and Income (Winz) in Dunedin for funds for emergency dental treatment and was asked to bring a quote for the work to an appointment a fortnight later.

In a written quote for a full upper denture, Dr James English, of Lumino The Dentists, said Mr Whiteman was ''immuno-compromised'' and had a ''high risk of infection'' and quoted $2428 to extract 10 teeth - six upper and four lower - and provide the denture.

At the Winz appointment on Monday, Mr Whiteman told staff of his ''extreme pain'' and discomfort getting the quote, and how he could not endure another quote.

The staff were ''rude and arrogant'' and showed him the door, he said.

''They saw how much pain I was in and couldn't get me out the door quick enough.''

He was happy repaying the Government the cost of the emergency treatment from his weekly $270 benefit but wanted the work done before another infection set in and his recovery was compromised.

''This will send me backwards, right back to the start. It's inhumane.''

Ministry of Social Development southern regional commissioner John Allen said Mr Whiteman should explore all options so he did not get further into debt.

The ministry was reasonable to ask clients to find the most affordable option, he said.

Emergency pain relief and extractions were available through the public health system for low income earners, he said.

The ministry had previously provided Mr Whiteman financial support, including emergency dental costs in March and for food and car repairs in the past nine months.

Mr Allen said emergency assistance was given to people with Winz walk-in appointments if their need was ''immediate and essential''.

When Mr Whiteman phoned about his dental situation, he failed to indicate his pain level and need for an emergency appointment, Mr Allen said.

Mr Whiteman said he repeatedly made his pain levels clear, the debt for the emergency payments in the past nine months was nearly paid back and his request for a walk-in appointment was declined.

He said he needed immediate treatment and could not wait for the public health system.

shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

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