PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic--After enduring the trauma of a premature delivery in a foreign country and all the attendant concerns about her tiny newborn baby, a British tourist now faces a potential US $280,000 medical bill.
Sharon Halls, of Ipswich in Suffolk, was 28 weeks and six days pregnant when she unexpectedly went into labour and gave birth to a daughter, Evie, in a private hospital in the Dominican Republic on September 28.
But after paying over US $13,000 for initial emergency care, Halls (36) learned that her travel insurance provider may not come up with the money.
Infinity Insurance Solutions said it had not decided whether it would cover the cost because the time difference between the Dominican Republic and the United Kingdom meant that when she gave birth she was over the 29-week mark, which was when the cover ceased to be valid.
Halls and her partner Daniel Compton (35) have now been forced to set up a GoFundMe page in a desperate bid to raise enough money to move Evie from a public hospital, which they say is dirty, according to a report in The Mirror.
The couple were attending a friend’s wedding in Punta Cana when Halls was taken to hospital with early contractions, which she later learned had been brought on by an infection.
Halls said she had been given clearance to travel by her hospital in Britain, The Mirror reported.
Writing on the fundraising site, Halls gave a compelling account of the events of September 28 and continuing.
“Little Evie was born breach before I could even lay flat,” she said.
“She was so tiny and blue, it took them a few minutes to get a response, but we then heard to our delight a little cry.”
But while Evie “looked healthy,” she could not breathe on her own.
Halls went on to describe the “substandard conditions” in the public hospital they were forced to move to.
“The sanitation and level of care is next to nothing; she was placed in dirty incubator lined up next to other sick newborn babies (15 plus in room).
“The equipment was old and even the blanket she laid on was stained and ripped. Only the mother can visit for half an hour so Daniel was unable to see her.
“No one spoke English so I was left feeling very alone and unsure.”
Halls and Compton estimate that if they move Evie back to a private hospital, the cost of her care will be US $2,500 a day.
Doctors have advised she could be made to stay for 16 weeks, moreover, which would see the bill skyrocket to about US $280,000.
Halls and Compton’s fundraising page raised more than US $24,000 in its first 24 hours.
Infinity Insurance Solutions (IIS) has issued the following statement: “IIS does not understand why the time difference has been reported as an issue in this case. All travel policies for leisure purposes sold in the UK have a stipulation on travelling when pregnant. In this case, the policy wording clearly states that pregnancy and childbirth are covered up to 28 weeks. After 28 weeks, normal birth is not covered but the needs of the baby are.
“Estimating gestational age is always difficult and the gestational age of the baby just prior to birth was found to be 29 weeks and four days, but cover for the baby’s needs was never in doubt. At no time has any member of the family been told there was no cover, moreover the time difference between the UK and the Dominican Republic is irrelevant and has never been mentioned by any of our staff.
“The facts are that Ms. Halls presented in early labour at a private clinic that told her that they did not have the facilities to treat her and the premature baby, and made it clear that all treatment depended upon prior payment. Faced with this appalling threat, Ms. Halls paid for the treatment with a debit card and paid a further sum to be transferred to Santo Domingo. We advised all involved in the case to transfer Ms. Halls to the national maternity hospital in the capital Santo Domingo – an excellent hospital that was refurbished with new facilities in 2013. The clinic, however, transferred Ms. Halls to their own larger clinic in Santo Domingo. Ms. Halls paid for the treatment to date with a debit card and arranged for a further sum to be transferred to the second private clinic in Santo Domingo.
“The onset of Ms. Halls’ premature labour was triggered by an illness which falls within policy terms and conditions, therefore all of Ms. Halls’ costs incurred to date will be reimbursed. All future costs in relation to Ms. Halls’ medical needs abroad, as well as those of Evie will be covered by the policy and the family will be repatriated just as soon as Evie is well enough to travel without risk.
“Although not technically covered by the policy, Ms. Halls’ telephone costs and taxi fares will be reimbursed as we consider this to be necessary for her safety. These costs are being covered ‘ex-gratia,’ because we are sympathetic to the particularly difficult circumstances in which the family finds itself.” ~ Caribbean360 ~