Two incidents prompt Indian mission to issue UAE travel insurance advisory
Indians travelling to the UAE for visiting or tourism purposes are advised to take adequate medical insurance.
When RN (name withheld at request), an Indian national working in the UAE, brought her parents for a trip to Dubai, little did she think that her father would be admitted into a hospital a week into his visit.
RN's father, a diabetes patient, suffered a brain stroke due to blood pressure and has been admitted to a hospital since January 20, after arriving in Dubai on January 15. RN, a life insurance company employee, told Khaleej Times that she is now suffering the brunt of not availing of travel insurance for her aged parents as her hospital bills have now surpassed Dh130,000.
Following two back-to-back instances of medical emergencies of Indian tourists in the UAE in less than two months - including RN's father's - the Indian diplomatic mission has issued a travel insurance advisory for all visit and tourist visa applicants from India.
In the second incident, Navdeep Pratap's 61-year-old mother Suchitra Pratap has slipped into a coma after an accident in Discovery Gardens on February 6. Suchitra was enjoying an evening walk in the community when a group of children playing football shoved into the her, making her lose her balance and fall onto the ground.
The retired teacher suffered severe internal haemorrhage. After the operation, she was put on a ventilator and went into a coma. Unfortunately, Navdeep too had not taken an insurance policy for his mother, causing the hospital bill to rise to Dh180,000 following a 35 per cent discount.
Navdeep said: "Her condition is currently stable; however, she would need long-term hospitalisation and therapy. I have procured the permissions to move her to KIMS Hospital in Hyderabad, India, on February 27." RN too is moving her father to a medical facility in Kerala on February 26.
Consulate issues travel insurance advisory
According to the advisory issued by the diplomatic mission in Dubai, all "Indians travelling to the UAE for visiting or tourism purposes are advised to take adequate medical insurance to cover up any expenditure on medical exigencies".
The advisory is being issued keeping in view the high costs of medical treatment in the UAE and also on the basis of having some instances of Indian travellers meeting with unforeseen accidents involving huge medical bills, beyond the capacity of the traveller or their family members.
Consul-General of India to Dubai Vipul explained: "If there is a medical emergency case, money from the Indian Community Welfare Fund is used to relieve the family or the patient. However, that is on a means-tested basis and in some of the cases, it is difficult. Ultimately, we have to establish whether they have the resources to spend the money or not."
Vipul said in both these cases, the hospital expenses very heavy. "In the second case (RN), she does not have financial means to support a heavy medical bill. In this case, we write to the hospital to waive off the charges. Mostly, hospitals also consider these requests on humanitarian grounds." The consulate does provide stretcher costs, air tickets and a medical escort to the patient in these cases so they can avail of further treatment in India.
Vipul also said in some cases, the hospital expenses are so heavy that it does not come within the consulate's limits and the case is referred to Delhi. "In many cases, the community comes to help as well," he added.
Medical insurance from India affordable
The consul-general insisted Indian nationals should apply for travel insurance before leaving India as the process to procure one is easy, and the costs for insurance is fairly affordable. "Sometimes people don't realise that medical treatment here is very expensive. Hospital bills run into several thousand dirhams in Dubai," said Vipul.
Praveen Kumar, a social worker and volunteer of the CGI community volunteer team, said: "We come across a lot of such cases. This is the second case I am coming across this month. Normally, the consulate helps these residents in whatever capacity they can. However, people must take insurance as it does not cost over Rs1,000 for individuals."
'Did not dream this would happen to mom'
After running from pillar to post in a bid to raise funds for their parents' treatment, RN and Navdeep Pratap are in the hopes that the hospitals would help them on 'humanitarian grounds'.
RN's father is in Al Qasimia Hospital in Sharjah. She said: "The hospital's social service team has promised to help us with a payment structure. I have to still pay Dh130,000. I cannot afford that amount."
She added: "I booked my parent's tickets through a travel agent and he did not suggest I take an insurance policy for them. You can't predict these things would happen."
Navdeep Pratap's mother is at Al Zahra Hospital. He said: "I will be travelling with my mum in a few days. I have collected some funds from well-wishers and taken some advances from banks. Though the hospital has provided a 35 per cent discount, there is still an outstanding on Dh180,000 to be paid. If I can save on this amount, then I can spend towards her treatment in India. She needs long-term hospitalisation and therapy."
Cost of 31-day insurance from India to UAE
Individual aged 60
>Dh65.1 to Dh76.6 (Depending on policy provider and plan)
>Coverage of $100,000
>Flight cancellations, delays and sudden change in plans
>Pre-existing diseases covered at no extra cost
>Baggage and passport loss
>Personal accident and personal liability
>Quick claim settlement with cashless options
Senior citizens aged 64
>Dh89.8 to Dh172.6 (Depending on policy provider and plan)
>Coverage of $25,000 to $100,000
>Medical advice on the telephone while travelling
>Arrangement of hospital admission
>Emergency cash advance etc.
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