Travel insurance policy document. For illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Agency

The son of an Indian patient currently in coma at a city hospital, following a freak accident, is urging all expatriates coming to UAE on visit visa to get adequate health cover by purchasing travel insurance.

Navdeep Pratap, the son, is flying out his comatose mother in an air ambulance to her home city of Hyderabad at 12.05am on early Thursday morning, 22 days after the accident, as her hospital bills have mounted and it will be relatively less expensive for the family to keep her at the ICU of an Indian hospital, he told Gulf News.

Suchitra Pratap, 61, was visiting her son’s family in Dubai when she was injured due to an alleged collision with a teenager playing football in a common community space on February 6. Due an internal brain injury and bleeding when she was rushed to the emergency Zahra Hospital, Al Barsha, where surgeons operated on her to relieve the pressure build up in her brain, she slipped into a coma following the surgery. Now, although she is stable, she has continued to be in that state with very little hope of recovery.

“My mother had no travel insurance and although she was healthy for her age, no one actually accounted for a freak accident like this. Had she taken a travel insurance, we would have been able to cover this expense as these insurances that can be purchased at a nominal cost provide a good health cover expense in case of an emergency. I strongly advise expatriates to ask their kith and kin to opt for a travel insurance,” said Pratap

Following the tragic accident, the Indian Consulate in Dubai issued an advisory to all Indians travelling to the UAE to avail of a travel insurance to cover any such sudden medical costs.

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Pratap has been overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, office colleagues, neighbours, family and even total strangers who donated generously towards paying his exceptionally high bills.

“The bill so far has come to approximately Dh300,000 and the Al Zahra hospital authorities were generous enough to give us a 35 per cent discount which amounted to nearly [a] Dh90,000 rebate. I was more than satisfied with the top class emergency response and ICU care extended to my mother. The donations from the entire community so far, helped me meet the expenses to a large extent and the Indian consulate very generously has offered to pay 50 per cent of the Dh28,000 expense of the air ambulance costs,” said Pratap who is bracing himself to meet a large per day expense of keeping his mother at a ICU of a Hyderabad hospital where he will shift his mother under the care of his sister and other family members.

Updating Gulf News readers on the current status of the patient the Al Zahra Hospital, Al Barsha in a statement to Gulf News said: “The medical team at Al Zahra Hospital Dubai has proved to be assiduously attentive to Mrs Suchitra Pratap who has been admitted to emergency since February 6, 2019, in a critical condition that required intense support and immediate action. Throughout her hospital stay, she underwent timely complex procedures, which involved constant monitoring, surgical intervention (brain surgery), medical imagining tests, including MRIs and CAT scans, and was kept sedated on a mechanical ventilator for a considerable time before the successful weaning trial.

Even though the patient is an Indian national on visit visa who is not medically covered under a travel insurance policy, we have taken all necessary medical measures and treatment without delay.

"The patient though in coma, her condition is currently stable. This makes her medically fit for discharge, so we have requested the Consulate General of India to consider arranging for medical evacuation in order to avoid further rise of the hospital’s bill.”

Why Travel Insurance?

The General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) strongly advises all visitors coming to the UAE to buy a travel insurance. A travel insurance that can be bought for less than Dh100 provides a comprehensive cover to a traveller against lost baggage, flight delays, trip cancellation and most of all emergency medical treatment and life-saving surgery in the host country in case of a road accident or sudden illness.

Udaya Perera, Chief Commercial Officer for a Dubai-based Third Party Insurance Administrator (TPA), Fortune Health Care, clarified: “Tourists travelling to the UAE can either secure the travel insurance while making online bookings. In India these travel insurances typically cost Rs1,000 (Dh50) and provide a comprehensive cover which includes up to emergency medical care of up to Dh150,000 in the UAE.”

Perera clarified that for those visitors who may have overlooked taking the travel insurance while booking tickets, local health insurance companies provide a cover which can be bought at the time of immigration clearance. “Depending on the length of stay, local insurance companies extend travel insurance which can be purchased by travellers at the airport. Typically it costs Dh40 for a 30-day visa, Dh90 for a 3-month visa and Dh185 for a 180-day visa. This insurance gives a comprehensive cover in case of emergency medical services in case of a sudden episode like accident or life-saving surgery. But travellers cannot treat this as some kind of medical tourism cover that will cover their pre-existing conditions. Only medical emergencies even if related to their pre-existing condition will be covered,” said Perera.