Patient in a coma faces ‘expulsion’ from JHB private hospital over bill

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A manager at a private hospital allegedly demanded that a gravely ill patient, who has been comatose since December, be expelled from the facility because his family questioned the medical bill they were ordered to pay.

According to a Sunday Tribune report, Durban businessman Prem Balgobind had undergone quadruple heart bypass surgery at Arwyp Medical Centre, a private hospital near OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

On 26 December, a few days after the procedure had been performed, he slipped into a coma and has remained in that state. Earlier this week, his wife Namika claimed she was asked by the manager to sign a R160,000 acknowledgement of debt for her husband’s stay and treatment at the hospital. She said she was willing to pay, provided she was given an invoice which detailed the costs.

Namika said in the report that the family had a valid medical aid “gap cover” policy which was meant to pay the costs not provided for by their medical aid. She said she never received requested invoice. Instead, Namika said she was asked by the same manager to move her husband to another facility by 7am.

Namika said her medical the aid informed her it was unaware of the charges. “The medical aid consultant asked me not to sign the hospital’s acknowledgement of debt,” she said.

The report says Namika said watching her husband fight for his life over the past four months was taxing, but learning about the hospital charges and then asked to leave was too much to bear. Her husband was admitted to the hospital on 16 December after it was discovered that he had suffered a heart attack while on business in Johannesburg. After consulting a doctor at the hospital, bypass surgery was scheduled. While recovering, her husband was able to scribble a note for a nurse, and asked for his wife.

On 26 December, Namika and her family were called back to the hospital. When they arrived, they noticed a team of nurses and a doctor trying to revive her husband. The report says he had stopped breathing, but was revived. “Nobody knows for how long he stopped breathing. That has caused him to suffer hypoxic brain damage (when oxygen to the brain is stopped).” Namika said he went into a coma and was placed in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

She claimed the family’s experience at the hospital since then has not been pleasant and even the chair that was at her husband’s bedside, on which she had spent many hours on, had been removed. “I was forced to sit on the floor.” According to Namika, they were previously asked to move her husband to a rehabilitation facility in Hillbrow, which was suggested by the hospital, but she refused. Namika believed that this may have further angered the manager. She alleged the manager told their son Shamveer his father was discharged and where he was to be taken was not the hospital’s problem, but they wanted him out. Shamveer was also allegedly told that if he paid the reduced fee of R110,000 within an hour, his father could remain, or else he would be removed.

The report says a security officer then told the family that he had been instructed to remove both Namika and her husband from the hospital. “After he listened to our side of the story, he refused to remove us and said that he was not prepared to do someone else’s ‘dirty work’,” she said.

The report says all the allegations made by Namika were sent in an email to the hospital for response. However, the executive marketing manager, Sanet Bigalke, said: “Due to patient confidentiality, we’re not at liberty to provide any comment.”

Sunday Tribune report

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