A mother who gave birth to twins two months ago has been left with huge debts after they were born prematurely and needed extra medical attention.
Monica Pentio Tubo, a 25-year-old Filipina, must now pay off a Dh57,000 bill after giving birth to her two daughters in February.
Although the children have remained healthy since, their premature birth meant they had to remain in care for weeks – quickly using up her annual health insurance allowance of Dh150,000.
Ms Pentio Tubo, a nanny, said she was only able to bring her children home from NMC Royal Hospital on Thursday evening, months after their birth, when she handed her passport over to the hospital as a guarantee that she could not leave the country without paying the debt.
She said she and her husband, John, who works as a cleaner in a salon, cannot pay the bill on her monthly salary of Dh1,500.
Ms Pentio Tubo said they were charged Dh5,000 a day for their children's care.
“I am just a nanny. How can I be expected to pay such a huge bill?” she said, adding that she never expected her babies to remain in hospital for so long.
She would make a daily trip from her home in Bur Dubai to the hospital, on the other side of the city, to see her daughters, Adori Emanuela and Amori Nathaniela, while they underwent treatment.
She said friends and family are unable to help because they also work low-income jobs.
“They are all low-paid nannies who cannot afford to help us beyond giving us food or nappies,” she said.
“A lot of our friends have also left the country ... because of the pandemic."
Doctors offer discount and delayed payments
The National contacted NMC Health, who said Ms Pentio Tubo was allowed to take her children home after she made a guarantee to pay the outstanding amount.
The bill would have been higher but for a Dh20,000 discount offered by the hospital.
Under rules governing donations, members of the public can help the couple pay off the bill, as long as payments are directly made to the hospital.
Fund-raising, particularly on social media, without an agreement with an official charity is against the law.
Ms Pentio Tubo said the family’s plan was for her husband John to return home to the Philippines with the twins, while she stayed in Dubai to pay off the hospital bills and send money back to them.
“Being portrayed as trying to make money out of somebody’s misery is a challenge in healthcare you always face," a spokesman for NMC Royal Hospital said.
“[The potential costs] were explained to her and her husband well in advance and they gave their written consent before we admitted them.
“Now the kids are healthy and ready to be discharged, she has said she doesn’t have the money.
“We were not [refusing to release the children] but somebody had to give a guarantee.
“She was fully told how much it would cost and when the children would be able to be released.”
He said Ms Pentio Tubo had suggested the idea of handing over her passport, until she paid off the debt, which the hospital accepted because they had no other form of guarantee from her.
Donations to help Monica and John can be made directly to NMC Royal Hospital