Medical Aid, a health assurance or day light robbery

By Lubalethu Ndlovu

It is the most traumatizing experience when one is denied medical assistance after they have spent many years making contributions to Medical AID Societies.

I had taken my four year old nephew to the clinic after he had experienced an asthmatic attack. The attack had happened in the evening and I rushed him to the clinic, taking with me the medical aid documents. I had expected urgent attention from the clinic but what transpired shocked me.

Before checking my nephew, the clinic administration said that I had to top up the medical aid with a cash payment of US$50. Without paying that money, I was told that my nephew would not get treatment.

Upon hearing this demand, my heart sank. How does a medical aid demand such a big amount of money when it is paid for on a monthly basis? I had nothing on me, not even a dollar to start with. Panicking I tried calling all the people that could lend me money at that hour. Most calls went unanswered.

After some delays, I managed to get in touch with my nephew’s mother. She promised to make the payments urgently. I sat there at the clinic reception, watching my nephew struggling to breathe. He was in urgent need of a nebulizer, a drug delivery device used to administer medication in the form of a mist inhaled into the lungs and commonly used for the treatment of asthma.

After almost two hours, the US$50 payment came through. The Sister-in-Charge took him into the ward and started check-ups. She asked a couple of questions about how the attack had happened. She then called the doctor who had retired home for the night. I was beside myself with rage. Surely the nurses should have called the doctor two hours ago when I had arrived at the clinic with my nephew who was in such a critical condition.

The response I received made me weak at the knees. I was told that doctors could not be called before payment just in case I did not have the money. I sat there quietly, defeated and full of anger.

The medication was finally administered to my nephew. It was five hours after my arrival when treatment was done. My nephew was now breathing normally. I picked him and went home in the early morning.

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