'A day in the ICU is $3,000 to $4,000': Employer faces $165,000 medical bill after new maid falls gravely ill

'A day in the ICU is $3,000 to $4,000': Employer faces $165,000 medical bill after new maid falls gravely ill
PHOTO: GiveAsia

How far would you go to help someone?

Jimmy Chan was recently left with a hefty bill of $165,000 after his Filipino domestic helper fell gravely ill in February, less than a month after she began working in Singapore.

"Of course I'm willing to help with her medical treatment," 48-year-old Chan said in an interview with Lianhe Zaobao. "But my wife and I are just regular salarymen. We have two daughters aged 18 and 14, both of whom are still studying. This is not a small sum."

His domestic helper Julie Ann Lucero, 34, was admitted into Khoo Teck Puat Hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) in early February for multiple organ failure due to severe blood poisoning. She was later diagnosed with tuberculosis too. After a 27-day stay in the hospital, the bill came up to $120,000. 

Lucero was discharged and flew home on Mar 5, but her condition required her to take a private plane with a medical team on board. Her repatriation fee amounted to $45,000, Chan told AsiaOne.

Though he bought insurance for Julie, the plan would only cover up to $30,000 of her medical fees and $10,000 of the repatriation cost. The amount would only be paid out two to three months after filing a claim.

Chan has since started up a donation drive through GiveAsia, though only $64,000 have been raised at the time of writing.

Multiple organ failure, tuberculosis

Julie was already coughing on her first day of work on Jan 15, despite having completed her 14-day stay-home notice at a facility, Chan wrote on the donation drive's page. She also experienced pain in her back and arms as well as constipation.

Her condition soon deteriorated. She was first diagnosed with severe eczema and urinary tract infection and later admitted to ICU on Feb 7.

Chan was told to prepare for the worst as Julie's kidneys, lungs and liver were failing and her blood pressure was dangerously low.

While she pulled through, blood test results revealed that she had severe blood poisoning due to salmonella. To add salt to the wound, she was also diagnosed with tuberculosis.

"A day in the ICU was about $3,000 to $4,000, and each blood transfusion cost about $700 to $900," Chan shared.

According to the doctors, Julie would need to take three types of medication for six to nine months to treat tuberculosis.

She made the decision to return home

As the hospital bills piled up in Singapore, Julie decided to return home to seek treatment despite the risks involved.

She was still in a fragile condition and required a medical team onboard the flight back to the Philippines with her. Her doctor also had to ensure that she was capable of breathing without the aid of a ventilator prior to her flight.

Before Julie could be discharged, Chan said he was supposed to sign an 'At Own Risk' form with the hospital which left him "in a very difficult position".

He said: "If, touch wood, anything happens, I…"

However, the hospital called him on Mar 5, the day of discharge, to inform him that Julie signed the form on her own after understanding the situation from a Tagalog-speaking nurse.

"I just sat in the car for 10 minutes afterwards. I didn't know what to say or do," Chan recounted.

That day, Chan and his family bid farewell to Julie through a Zoom call. As she had been placed on a ventilator for some time, she was not able to speak and could only shed tears as he encouraged her not to give up.

Financial concerns

Julie has safely arrived in her hometown, Tarlac, where she will serve quarantine until Mar 10.

However, Chan continues to worry that she might choose to give up on treatment due to the costs involved. Despite receiving some financial assistance from the maid agency, as well as a one-off sum from Chan himself, Julie's family is not well-to-do.

"Any donations for Julie would be greatly appreciated," he added.

rainercheung@asiaone.com

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