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Parents of baby Zoe appeal to minister for health card

The Health Ministry covered the costs for Zoe's operation in Israel

By Bejay Browne

THE PARENTS of a seven-month-old baby girl, who underwent a life saving heart operation in Israel last year, are appealing to the ministry of health to grant her a medical card so they can cover thousands of euros in mounting medical costs.

When the Cyprus Mail covered the baby’s desperate plight on its front page in 2013, the health ministry stepped in and offered to pay the costs of the heart operation.

First time parents Virginia Taguinay, 32, from the Philippines and John Dhull, 31, from India are now appealing directly to the Minister of Health Petros Petrides to grant baby Zoe a medical card to cover other costs of almost 7,000 euros which have been incurred due to the baby’s poor health. These include hospital stays at both Paphos general hospital and Makarios hospital, as well as medication which was imperative in keeping the baby alive. The family has no way of covering these costs on their own.

Zoe was born at Paphos general hospital last June with the family planning to leave Cyprus shortly after her birth.

But, two days later, Zoe’s parents were informed that she had severe breathing complications caused by a heart defect which had gone undetected during pregnancy. Zoe was rushed by ambulance to the Makarios Hospital in Nicosia. Her distraught parents had no private medical insurance and were unable to obtain a state medical card, which would have covered the baby’s medical expenses, as their visas had expired.

Zoe’s parents were given less than two weeks to raise the 15,000 euros needed to pay for a vital cardiac catheterisation procedure in Israel, as the operation cannot be done in Cyprus. At the last minute the health ministry stepped in and paid the costs of the operation.

But since her return to Cyprus after the successful operation the cost of continued treatment and the initial costs of her care at Makarios hospital have risen to almost 7,000 euros.
“We really don’t know what to do next. Zoe’s application for a medical card has now been turned down twice,” Dhull told the Sunday Mail.

The baby’s father says that the latest letter states the reasons for rejecting the application for a medical card for Zoe is based on the fact that he no longer has a valid visa and is not paying social insurance contributions.

“The letter says that Zoe is not entitled to a medical card, but that we can re apply before March 1 if either of these points changes. But I don’t know how I can make that happen,” he said.

Dhull studied hotel management at a reputable Nicosia college and made social insurance contributions for two years previously.

Although Zoe is doing well and astonishing doctors with her swift recovery, she still has to attend regular check ups with her doctor at Makarios hospital in Nicosia.

“It costs 250 euros each time, but Zoe’s doctor has very kindly said that he will waive this fee if we are unable to get her card, which is wonderful of him. But this doesn’t help us cover the costs we already have.”

In addition, the baby’s parents are concerned about how they would fund any further necessary operations or treatment.

“It’s not yet clear if Zoe will need further treatment, although she is doing well so far,” he said.

The first time parents say they are distressed by the debt of thousands of euros hanging over their heads and continuously worry about how they will find ways to clear the amount if the ministry of health is unable to help.

The family is living on the poverty line, reliant on help from friends, a local church and Solidarity charity.

“We look at Zoe every day and are so thankful for her life and the chance that she has been given, but we have to clear the bills of thousands of euros. We are appealing directly to the minister to give Zoe her medical card,” Dhull said.

Ministry spokesman Demetris Constantinou told the Sunday Mail: “This is a very sensitive issue which is why the minister stepped in to help a small baby. I can’t really comment, although I think it will be very difficult for a medical card to be issued,” he said but added he would ask the head of the department to examine the case.

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