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Woman paralysed in horse fall takes fight over closure of Auckland rehab centre to Parliament

Twenty-three-year-old tetraplegic Sophia Malthus has delivered a petition to Parliament today calling for the Government to intervene to save a rehabilitation centre in Auckland – otherwise, she says, the only option for people like her is to enter a rest home.

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Sophia Malthus delivered a petition to Parliament calling for the Government to intervene. Source: 1 NEWS

It comes after hundreds of disabled people protested outside of Epsom’s Laura Fergusson Trust rehabilitation centre over the weekend.

The centre provided rehabilitation for young people with disabilities to escape the confines of their homes in the company of others their age.

But it closed last year, claiming it was short of funds, leaving those depending on its services devastated.

However, Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall told the House that financial support was offered to Laura Fergusson Trust.

“No discussion was able to be entered into, because the trust informed the Ministry of Health that its decision was final,” Verrall said.

“It’s always been our position that we would like to have further discussion with Laura Fergusson Trust."

1 NEWS has approached Laura Fergusson Trust for comment, but ACT’s Epsom MP David Seymour says they are refusing to answer any questions.

“It makes no sense that the trust isn’t doing everything it can to save this centre. It needs to be up front with the community about why it’s not fighting for its residents,” Seymour said.

“I’m asking them to get back to the table with the Ministry of Health and fight for the disabled community.”

After breaking her neck when she fell from a horse, Malthus become tetraplegic and resided at the rehabilitation centre.

“After my stay at hospital I had to go somewhere because my house wasn’t wheelchair accessible, so I went to Laura Fergusson, which is where they’re closing now," Malthus said. "And so now that they’ve closed the centre they’re going to send people in my position to rest homes."

The 23-year-old said she feels “very uncomfortable” with people accepting sending young people with disabilities to a rest home.

“The physical care and rehab that you get in a place like Laura Fergusson, which is there specifically for rehab, is completely different to the physical care you’d get in a rest home,” Malthus said.

“I think it’s really inappropriate that young people are being sent to rest homes when we’re already dealing with acquiring a disability or having lived, or being born with a long-term disability."

Malthus flew from Auckland to deliver the petition to David Seymour today at Parliament.

“It’s a cause that means a lot to me because it affected me personally and I know that it's going to effect other people so much if they don’t keep the centre open,” she said.