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Turkish hospital bill awaiting government verdict

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PHOTO: Erakogu

For a family of four, and end-of-April trip to Turkey ended with father's illness and a mega hospital bill, the compensation of which hangs on decision by Estonian government.

«Having arrived in Turkey on April 22nd, we were supposed to return on April 19th,» recalls lady of the house Kairi Reinvart (34), looking back to the trip that took a highly unexpected turn in the morning of the final day.

Namely, severe stomach ache hit her husband Raido Reinvart (37) and the man begun to feel so bad that the doctor invited to their hotel room opted to send him to be examined at a hospital. As the family’s flight back home was due in a couple of hours, the hospital promised to bring Raido right there should all be okay. As it turned out, the mother had to board the plane alone, with the kids then aged five and 12.

«I was in Estonia for a few days and flew back,» says Kairi Reinvart. As she arrived, the explanations about her husband’s health were scarce. «To the degree I was able to contact the hospital by phone– it was all in English and the various doctors did not speak it too well either –, it surfaced they had taken him to coma meanwhile, and his condition was very bad,» she described.

The man, otherwise healthy till then, had in high likelihood developed an acute pancreatitis due to local food, accompanied by kidney trouble with later lung problems. «These, indeed, are the complications of the disease which may occur in the worst case,» noted the lady. As tourists are traditionally taken to private not state hospitals, the man was treated in a small private hospital in Side.

Trip home covered by insurance

With Raido’s international insurance at €30,000, on the sixth day the hospital bill stood at €38,000. Through Estonian foreign ministry, the woman was able to contact the consul in Turkey who helped organise communication with owners and doctors of the hospital and to substantially lower the hospital bill which broke the €100,000 barrier.

«The whole while, the insurance [company] was urging the hospital to bring him home as soon as possible – the bill being so high – but he was in such a severe condition that he may not have survived the flight,» said Kairi Reinvart. It took a month until his health had stabilised somewhat – he was awakened from coma and transported to Estonia in a separate medicinal airplane under surveillance of doctors. «He was attached to the breathing apparatus, as the lungs we not working when he was brought to Estonia,» described the woman. The Reinvarts arrived on May 29th and the man was taken to Mustamäe Hospital’s intensive care straight from airport.

Thereafter, the insurance paid up homecoming bill of €19,000. For the remaining €11,000 a part of the hospital bill of €60,000 was covered. As for her month-long stay in Turkey, the mother had to cover the costs out of own means, as helped by family, relatives and acquaintances.

«A typical Estonian family with two kids and loans where the man, in high likelihood, will not be able to return to work in a few years due to the sickness,» said county mayor Lauri Läänemets.

Meanwhile, close to €50,000 were left hanging – outstanding from the hospital bill. Regarding the payment thereof, Estonian foreign ministry had issued the hospital a letter of guarantee for the family to be allowed home at all. «As for me, I had recourse to Väätsa parish government and wrote an application to be awarded support, grabbing along all the papers – the hospital bill, and we made a copy of the disease file,» says the lady.

As the traditional Väätsa parish social payments come in the €100 to €300 bracket, and to pay up €50,000 would be quite a cost for the local government of 1,300 inhabitants, the parish had recourse to social ministry.

«I’d think that of the Estonian local governments only Tallinn would perhaps be able to conjure up a sum like that, even Tartu would be hard pressed to pay such support,» noted Väätsa parish elder Lauri Läänemets.

Also, he thinks it needs to be considered what the situation is like for the family, now that the man in the house is suddenly sick. «A usual Estonian family with two children and loans, and the husband not likely to return to work in near future due to sickness – the mother ought to manage it all, alone,» described Mr Läänemets.

Mr Läänemets added that the parish had already supported the family twice while the wife was in Turkey waiting for them two to get back home. «Actually, we went to social ministry even before they returned from Turkey, telling of the case looming – so they where in the know,» added Mr Läänemets.

To his knowledge, Estonia has faced a like situation twice or thrice. «This doubtless is an extraordinary situation – usually, when stuff happens with people while abroad, the foreign ministry finds such small sums like €5,000–€6,000, makes the payment and the people pay them back, afterwards,» said Mr Läänemets, referring to the loan extended by foreign ministry to Estonian citizens in such cases.

Complications abound

Once in Estonia, Raido Reinvart remained at the hospital at Mustamäe for a month. As he got better, he was allowed home for a while just before Midsummer Day on June 22nd. While at home, his health grew worse again, leading to a visit to the local Paide emergency medicine department.

After visiting doctors in Tallinn, the man – wit no such prior problems – had to start injecting insulin. «Then he begun feeling worse again, and it surfaced he had inflammation in a lung, and the other had developed a large amount of liquid,» said the wife. Thus, her husband took another trip to hospitals in Paide and Tallinn.

The last time, returning home, the man developed high fever. It was discovered that pneumonia had returned, and cysts in stomach resulting from the disease had became dangerous. «Now they begun to remove these cysts,» said Kairi Reinvart. At the moment, the doctors cannot say when the man could be totally restored. «At the end of the year, perhaps, but he has such an intensive case of the disease, with all the complications that ever could occur,» added the wife.

Decision delayed

Though Kairi Reinvart has kept on working during her husband’s sickness – to feed the family and pay the monthly bills –, she still feel weighed down by what will be with the mega bill brought home from Turkey. «Now it has been delayed for so long – there was a meeting meanwhile, also, but it will be two months soon,» noted the woman, not directly notified by anyone about the procedures.

Social ministry press rep Oskar Lepik said health and labour Rannar Vassiljev filed application to finance ministry as early as beginning of June, for the government to allocate €48,593 out of its reserves to cover extraordinary Turkish cure costs of a citizen.

While the government did discuss the bill at the beginning of June, the decision was postponed because the health and labour minister was absent from the session.

Väätsa parish elder Lauri Läänemets thinks that perhaps the finance ministry wanted to take the time to find out about some details. This was also confirmed by the ministry’s financial policy and foreign relations department head Sigrid Laev. However, Ms Laev was unable to specify when the topic would be up for a discussion in the government again.

«I know that on Thursday, August 6th, they will discuss it at the cabinet – whether or not it will go straight to a session will depend on the result reached at the cabinet,» said the parish elder.

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