16 Apr, 2014 @ 13:42
2 mins read

Medic betrayed by his insurance company as his wife lay dying

iain renfrew e

A MEDIC has slammed his insurance company for refusing to cover his dying wife’s pain relief.

Expat Iain Renfrew, 48, who worked as a radiographer for 20 years, has been left ‘almost bankrupt’ by the company Mapfre’s refusal to pay up for his wife, who died of breast cancer last year.

Carol Pickard, 54 – who also worked in healthcare for more than two decades as a nurse – died at the Virgen de las Nieves hospital in Granada, on July 12.

She had been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer after months of pain and no less than four appointments with doctors and hospitals.

But, while this is a shocking delay in diagnosis, it is the fact that her husband has now been hit with a bill for nearly €10,000 for her hospital stay that has most angered him.

“I can’t afford to pay up and I can’t afford to pay my mortgage,” he told the Olive Press this week.

“There’s nothing left for me here. If they want to take my house then feel free,” continued Renfrew, who worked as a medic in Scotland and Ireland, and later for the United Nations war crimes tribunal in Bosnia.

“The stress that I’ve been put through has taken its toll on my health too. I am not sleeping well and I’m suffering from anxiety,” added the doctor, who moved to Alcala La Real, in Jaen in 2006.

The couple’s nightmare experience of Spain’s ‘healthcare lottery’ began last March when Carol became seriously ill.

While Iain, 48, was working in Oxford in the UK, Carol began to experience severe stabbing abdominal pains and found a lump under her arm.

When Iain returned to Spain the following week, the couple made their first visit to their local doctor, in their village of Las Pilas de Fuente de Soto.

The doctor initially diagnosed her with gastritis, but as Carol’s symptoms worsened the couple made a second visit and were told she was merely suffering from ‘abdominal cramps’.

“My wife disagreed with this diagnosis straight away,” said Iain. “She was a trained nurse and she knew what abdominal cramps looked like. But there was nothing we could do.”

After another month in agony, with her symptoms getting worse by the day, the couple went to the Hospital de Alta Resolucion, in Alcala la Real where they were told Carol had gallstones.

Throughout the couple’s attempts to get a real diagnosis for Carol’s illness, Mapfre ignored their plight, telling them they weren’t covered by their plan.

“They weren’t interested in the slightest,” insisted Iain.

After many misdiagnoses and more than twelve weeks of agony, Carol was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer at on July 2, after finally being seen by a specialist at the Alcala la Real hospital.

Told there was nothing the doctors could do to save her, she was given morphine to aid relief.

“Mapfre has refused to pay for any of the treatment, not even the pain relief,” said Renfrew.

“I don’t think that if my wife had received proper treatment and had been diagnosed properly to start with, that it would have changed the eventual outcome.

“But it would have given her longer and it would have given her a better quality of life in her last days.

“Carol’s daughter was actually on her way to the hospital when Carol died. If my wife had lived a little longer, her daughter would have been able to see her one last time.

British medical journal ‘The Lancet’ has recently slammed a dramatic fall in Spanish healthcare standards following drastic 30% of cuts over the last few years.

“I don’t have anything against the Spanish people, my wife and I adored living here. But the system has failed us,” continued Iain.

“My wife was treated as nothing more than rubbish and for that I can never forgive this country.”

Despite numerous emails and calls Mapfre did not comment.

Imogen Calderwood

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  1. I feel very sad for this poor woman and her husband
    The best thing with hindsight was to have gone back to the UK
    for an examination NHS or Private and then treatment in the UK

  2. rob,
    the same thing can and does happen back in the UK. I read today of a pregnant woman who went in for an appendix op. and the trainee surgeon (unsupervised) removed her ovaries instead – she died of septic shock after 3 weeks.

    Social charges are high in France but the standard of care is way better than what is available in the UK today. I had 2 weeks in hospital here in France ( a heart problem), the standard of cleanliness was exemplary.The nursing care was first class as were the doctors. The food was entirely edible – oh yes I had my own personal room/shower and toilet – a standard that would only be possible in a private hospital in the UK.

    What some may find surprising is that both this poor woman and her husband were health professionals – I do not. My partner spent her working life in the NHS ending up as a lecturer in paediatric nursing – taking issue with the system is unfortunately alien for them.

    When we lived in Galicia, Angela suffered a very bad spiral fracture in her right humerus. I could’nt understand how she could suffer such a bad fracture from a very simple fall.

    I told her to ask the doctors about possible brittle bone problems – she did’nt, that would have meant challenging the doctors findings. We had been living in Guadix for 2 years and once again Angela suffered a fracture. This time the doctors immediately thought of osteoporosis and indeed it was and treatment was begun immediately.

    Doctors are fallible and often very arrogant when I encounter this kind of mentality I make them an offer they can’t refuse.

  3. Hello Rob and Stuart
    Thank you for your comments. My point in the story was for people to be careful when taking out medical insurance and ensure they know just what they are covered for. For example my wife was covered for dental, despite the fact she had full dental implants and she was also covered for obstetrics( in her 50s ), but apparently not covered for pain relief due to cancer. My point is that human decency says that you help someone in pain, but not apparently when there are shareholders involved. I would like to point out also that I am not a doctor, I am a radiographer with 20 years post graduate experience and one of the first things you learned in my day was that doctors were beyond questioning. I know now that I should have been more forceful and that is something I will have to live with for the rest of my days.

  4. A SAD tale for sure. Get yourself an EXPERIENCED Spanish Lawyer who speks English (try Antonio Flores at LAWBIRDS in Marbella)then sue the heck out of the Doctors/Hospitals involved and also the Insurance company. Both usually collect and try to hold onto money really well..ugh! It sounds like your situation involved serious Malpractice and Compensation both of which come from insurance funds. Go for it.

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