'Bring mum home': Kiwi woman stuck in Malaysian hospital amid insurance stoush
A Kiwi woman hospitalised with pneumonia in Malaysia is fighting her travel insurance company who are refusing to cover her medical costs.
Bronwyn Ross, 58, and son Kane Beardsmore were in Kuala Lumpur to see his cousin's daughter Isla compete in a junior ice skating championship.
But the holiday took a turn for the worse when Ross felt short of breath and was too weak to walk on their third day there.
Ross has spent the past 11 days in hospital in Kuala Lumpur suffering from pneumonia, and this week learned that Southern Cross Travel Insurance knocked back her claim because they said her illness was linked to a pre-existing medical condition.
Her family has spent more than $10,000 on medical bills and re-booking flights and accommodation, and may have to pay $30,000 for a medical flight to get home to Otago.
Kane Beardsmore said Southern Cross' ruling that his mother had a pre-existing medical condition was "absolute rubbish" and he has a letter from a doctor saying that was not a contributing factor to contracting pneumonia.
His mother has severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), however the doctor said her COPD had been stable since she's been in hospital.
Beardsmore said Southern Cross initially didn't return calls or emails then delayed their decision for several days before confirming they would not cover any medical costs or expenses.
"We were thinking the whole time it was going to be covered and we thought 'ah yeah she'll be right' because we'd filled all the forms in correctly. It was pretty hard to take; it's not cheap to have someone in hospital over here. It's a bit on the nose really," he said.
Southern Cross did not respond to requests for comment before deadline, but in their email to Ross they said "after review of all the medical information to hand our medical advisor has confirmed that your current admission can be related to your COPD and as your COPD is a pre-existing condition, we are unable to cover any costs or losses incurred directly or indirectly related to this condition".
The email added that "if you are unhappy with any aspect of your insurance or the service we have provided, please let us know so we can help. Resolving complaints is as important to us as any other aspect of our business."
Beardsmore took her down to the ice skating in a wheelchair but the following day she was unable to get out of bed and he took her to hospital.
He said the travel insurance drama has been particularly hard on his mother.
"Obviously she's pretty down, she thinks she's sort of ruining everyone's holiday and not feeling too flash about that. That's definitely stressed her out more, especially us thinking it was going to be covered."
He said he would contest the Southern Cross decision, but in the meantime was left out of pocket thousands of dollars.
Doctors have advised him that unless he was able to pay for the medical flight, they would need to wait until she was well enough to travel without an oxygen tank, which could take another week at least.
He said it has been an exhausting process for the family but they were determined to challenge the decision.
"We'll fight it when we're back in New Zealand," he said.
- Sunday Star Times