Abu Dhabi: A renowned international hospital in Bangkok discharged against their will 10 Emirati patients who were in critical condition and still receiving treatment, Gulf News has learnt.
According to a source at the UAE Embassy in Bangkok, the embassy had to have all 10 patients admitted to other hospitals in Bangkok, on Monday.
The patients had originally been admitted by the Bangkok Hospital Medical Centre (BMC) suffering with conditions including cancer, heart problems, paralysis and old age.
The patients' expulsion followed a financial dispute. The hospital says it discharged the patients because of overdue, unpaid bills. However, the UAE Embassy in Bangkok said the hospital had been overcharging patients, so it decided to stop its bill payments to the BMC as a result while the issue was resolved.
The UAE Embassy source said: "After we found out that the BMC has been overcharging our patients in the past three years, we employed a consultancy firm to revise the hospital bills thoroughly, who again confirmed that the hospital bills were inaccurate and exaggerated".
"We then decided to stop our payments to the BMC till the matter is clarified and resolved."
The Bangkok Hospital Medical Centre receives more than 10,000 patients from the UAE each year. Fees are usually either settled by individual patients, or are covered by authorities such as the armed forces, the Health Authority Abu Dhabi, Dubai Health Authority and the UAE Embassy.
Emiratis or Thiqa health insurance card holders are only covered by their health insurance scheme in the UAE and GCC region, and not elsewhere.
A spokesman for the Bangkok Hospital Medical Centre's management said: "We only faced overdue accounts from the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD), Dubai Health Authority, and the UAE Embassy, who have accumulated bills that have reached Dh20 million. For that reason, and for the first time in the hospital's history, we asked patients who are sponsored from those parties to leave the hospital, since their designated authorities have not been paying us".
Explaining the situation, the source from the hospital said: "As much as we feel bad for the patients, who were mostly admitted to our intensive care unit, we are now financially relieved. We never had any problems from countries like Qatar and Kuwait, and it's disappointing for us to have one with the UAE".
The UAE embassy denied the hospital's allegations, and insisted that the BMC had been overcharging their patients.
Dr Ali Obaid Al Ali, Director of Health Regulation Division at the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) said: "HAAD didn't receive any complaints from its delegated patients on any of their treatment cessation, nor did we receive any notifications from the Military Attache Office (the office responsible from all delegated patients by HAAD), on any issues between the office and Bangkok hospital".
"After receiving some media enquiries, HAAD contacted the Military Attache Office and enquired about the issue and was informed about a dispute over old invoices between the office and hospital which is being resolved.
Meanwhile, HAAD has instructed the Military Attache Office to transfer all HAAD delegated patients to other hospitals in Thailand to ensure the continuity of their treatment," Dr Al Ali said.
Patient shares content
Before asking the patients to leave due to unpaid bills, the Bangkok Hospital Medical Centre (BMC) said it sent each patient a letter. One Emirati heart patient, who was among the 10 patients asked to leave, confirmed they received the letter, and shared its contents with Gulf News.
The letter reads as follows:
Dear Mr Abdullah Al Qaydi,
The BMC financial offices and hospital leadership have been in negotiations with your payer to settle their long overdue account. Many conversations and communications have taken place in an attempt to resolve non-payment.
After many fruitless discussions our final reminder was delivered to your payer with a request to settle their overdue account by paying the outstanding balance by 8 September 2010. If our request is ignored and we have not received the payment by 8 September, we regret to inform you that you will be held responsible, since the payer for your medical costs is no longer meeting their obligations.
We can no longer accept a guarantee of payment from your payer and consequently, it is necessary for us to hold you accountable for all medical expenses and hospital charges that you incur effective 9 September 2010.
Furthermore, in the event that former invoices for your treatment that have been billed to your payer are not paid within standard credit terms, the Bangkok Hospital Medical Center reserves the right to collect the unpaid hospital expenses directly from you.
Please let us know how we can help you meet this responsibility.
Chief Financial Officer
Bangkok Hospital Medical Centre
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