This post has been triggered by recent news in The Sun and the Daily Mail. It attempts to show negative attitudes towards healthcare in Egypt, through false news and personal experience, and to redress the balance with the other side of the story.
On February 19th this year, the Daily Mail published a story about a British tourist whose life support machine was switched off in The Egyptian Hospital Hurghada, because his family could not pay the bill. The father, Charles Bumford, claimed that a doctor entered the hospital room where his son was in a coma, said the insurance was void and if he could not pay the outstanding £7,000, he would have to stop treatment. He was alleged to say, “Pay now or I switch off the machines!” An equally dramatic headline in The Sun screamed, “PAY £7K OR DIE!”
The family refused to accept the hospital’s explanation that Adrian King had suffered a heart attack which was the cause of death. The patient had arrived 11 days earlier already in a coma with kidney failure and attempts to revive him with dialysis had failed.
Dr. Abdel Kader Dweidar, the hospital owner, tried to set the record straight by stating on National television that the doctors had followed protocol, and the first 24 hours of treatment incurred no charge. After that the patient could choose to remain there or go to a government hospital which was free. He said that the patient had not responded to CPR for his third heart attack, the cause of death. No medical staff could accept the newspapers’ stories for any, ‘reason, logic or religion.’ The British Consul collected reports for the Embassy and apologised for non-payment of fees by the insurance company.
This happened in May 2017 but was reported ten months later at the start of the holiday season, presumably to deter tourism. It’s a good example of ‘false news’ and the damage it can cause.
The second case is personal, following a lumpectomy in February 2017. I had breast cancer. Since I was returning to the UK for a summer job, I decided to have a further check-up with the NHS. Two weeks after an appointment with the GP I entered the breast clinic. The consultant ranted about the surgeon’s report and ‘sub-optimum’ care. How was she supposed to treat me with incomplete records? I offered to DHL the X-rays and pathology slides. When she examined me, she grudgingly accepted that it was a ‘neat job’. Since I lived in Egypt, I would have to pay. Less is more, as I maintained I was only there for winter sun. I had missed the ‘window’ for radiation and chemotherapy. My head was ‘in the sand’, because of the 5-month delay before presenting myself. I mumbled about long waiting lists but she parried, ‘not for cancer’. I saw her again after the X-rays had arrived without the pathology slides which I remember, ‘disgusting’, throwing in the bin. She asserted that it was impossible to treat me with such scant information. Despite an NHS handout promising full tests and biopsies within the first two weeks of admission, she only managed to fit in a lymph gland screening over ten weeks. By then the job had finished, and I couldn’t stay in my student accommodation any longer. It was time for me to return to Egypt, without waiting for an unspecified timeframe and a cash haemorrhage.
The truth was that the hospital in Hurghada lacked the equipment for follow-up chemotherapy or radiation and the surgeon recommended I go to the UK. Before the operation, I had a battery of blood tests. I booked myself in for the op one day before,(no waiting lists), by phoning the surgeon on his mobile. The preparation room and bed was spotless. There was a slight delay due to a medical emergency for a builder who had fallen off a roof. He died on the operating table, so the team had to contend with that before seeing me.
I had three check-ups with the surgeon in 10 days before my stitches were taken out, leaving an almost invisible scar.
Is the British consultant with a team of medical technicians, state-of-the-art equipment under any more pressure than the Egyptian surgeon? He had to assist in the initial biopsy with ‘sub-optimum’ tools. Was the care in the UK ‘better’ that in Hurghada? Despite saying that there was no delay for cancer treatment, I only managed to have a scan over three months. I am not complaining. That is not the point. It is rather that one professional does not have the right to criticise a system they know nothing about, based on their prejudices. Likewise, the media should not damage one of Egypt’s main sources of income, tourism, by publishing false news.