Lack of insurance coverage leaves South African family struggling

An Abu Dhabi resident's sister hopes to raise money to cover healthcare costs for her brother, who fell chronically ill in July and has since accumulated thousands in medical bills.
Scott Matthews (seen here with his father), a 29-year-old from Pretoria who had been working as a restaurant manager, was admitted to hospital in late July with multiple organ failure. Courtesy Mignon Matthews
Scott Matthews (seen here with his father), a 29-year-old from Pretoria who had been working as a restaurant manager, was admitted to hospital in late July with multiple organ failure. Courtesy Mignon Matthews

ABU DHABI // A South African brother and sister in the UAE are hoping to raise hundreds of thousands of dirhams to cover four months of his medical bills.

Scott Matthews, a 29-year-old from Pretoria who had been working as a restaurant manager, was admitted to hospital in late July with multiple organ failure. By October he had accrued more than Dh400,000 in hospital bills that involved eight operations.

Scott’s sister, Mignon, 31, said her brother’s condition was caused by living an unhealthy lifestyle and being unaware that he had diabetes. Despite being unaware of his illness, he continued to drink alcohol while being overweight and working long hours.

Mignon said they were told that his insurance company would not cover the cost because it considered his condition self-inflicted.

A representative of Metlife Alico said that a provision in its policy stated that it did not cover conditions related to alcohol use. It also covered pre-existing conditions for up to Dh300,000 and chronic conditions up to the policy limit.

As the costs for Scott’s life-saving care mount, the siblings are daunted by the amount.

“It’s the price of an average house in South Africa,” she said.

Mignon said that she and her mother, who is 62, were struggling to meet the costs.

“I have no other family and no one who can help us out of financial stress caused by these medical bills,” she said.

Scott, who was first taken to Al Noor Hospital, is now in recovery at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, and has lost 30kg over five months. His sister helps him with his physical therapy so that he can walk again and leave the hospital.

Mignon said she had left her life in South Africa, where she was a lawyer, to relocate here and find a job so she could help to pay his medical bills.“My brother means more to me than anything,” she said.

Mignon said Scott became depressed last year after his father’s death in April from oesophageal cancer. Scott was close to his dad, Mark, but could not visit him during his illness. He was on his way home for a visit when his father died.

“He felt very guilty about not being able to support my dad,” said Mignon. “He literally missed him by one day.”

Rudi du Plessis, 36, a family friend from Pretoria, said he never knew about Scott’s depression.

“He wouldn’t show it and you wouldn’t realise he was so depressed. The fact that his dad died really had an effect on him.”

Another friend, co-worker Seney Master, 35, said that Scott was very upset about losing his father.

“He always used to talk about his dad and what he and his dad used to do. I think that actually led him to a situation where he would start drinking.”

Mr du Plessis, who has worked in Abu Dhabi for 10 years as an engineer, said when he visited Scott in August he was shocked to find out that his friend was incapable of responding.

But when he spoke to him in Afrikaans, to tell him that everything would be fine and that Mignon was on the way, Scott reacted.

“It was sort of almost like he nodded, which was really emotional for me,” said Mr du Plessis. “As soon as his sister came, it made a huge improvement for him.”

Mignon can be contacted at mlmatthews82@gmail.com.

lcarroll@thenational.ae

Published: December 14, 2014 04:00 AM

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