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No travel insurance proves costly for Phuket tourist

PHUKET: A British man who travelled to Thailand without travel insurance is paying a hefty price after he suffered a heart attack in Phuket on Saturday. He is now in intensive care at Bangkok Hospital Phuket with mounting hospital bills.

Claire Connell

Tuesday 29 January 2013, 02:56PM

Gareth Harnett, 30, a builder from Kent in England, was on a nine-day holiday to Phuket with five other friends when he had a heart attack on Saturday morning while at the Diamond Cliff Resort in Patong.

Mr Harnett’s friends were swimming in the pool and went to see where their friend was, only to be told by reception staff he had had an asthma attack and was taken to Patong Hospital, then transferred to Vachira Hospital.

“When we got to Vachira we were told by the doctor he actually had a heart attack and was in intensive care,” said Gareth’s travelling companion and one of his best friends Patrick Dyett, also 30.

Mr Dyett decided to move his friend immediately to a private hospital, and two hours later Mr Harnett was moved to Bangkok Hospital Phuket.

“He is still in intensive care, but now out of the coma. He’s in a critical condition on life support. He’s got fluid on his lungs and an infection, and when he had the heart attack he lost oxygen to his heart which caused it to weaken,” said Mr Dyett.

At the moment Mr Harnett is unable to talk but is communicating by nodding his head.

Mr Dyett said his friend suffering a heart attack was not entirely unexpected.

“He doesn’t lead a very good lifestyle in the UK. He smokes and drinks heavily and he’s carrying a considerable amount of weight.

“For a long time I’ve been saying to him he needs to change his ways. He’s got sleep apnoea and has airway and breathing problems which he has been seeing the doctors in the UK about. He was at a much higher risk of this happening than someone in good health would be.

“Doctors are saying they think he will make a full recovery, but he’s going to need to stay in this unit for at least another fortnight.”

And it’s a stay that is proving costly. With limited family support, friends have set up a Paypal fund to help with medical costs.

“So far I’ve spent more than 10,000 pounds (B468,000) keeping him at this hospital,” said Mr Dyett.

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“We set up a page on Facebook, and he’s a very popular guy so we raised almost 12,000 pounds (B560,000) in the last 72 hours. It’s been overwhelming the support he’s had.

“We have raised a lot of money, but it is 2,300 pounds (B100,000) a day to keep him in the hospital. We have paid almost B400,000 in medical fees so far.

“I’ve sold my car, watch and spent all the savings I have. I can’t risk my own business and my family’s well-being to put any more money in. I’m hoping amongst our friends we will raise enough money to keep him here, then get him home safe and well.”

Mr Dyett said his friend forgot about travel insurance.

“Everyone else had it, and I told him last week, make sure you get your insurance, but he forgot. It’s not a good idea, and now it’s turned out to be a very expensive mistake.

“For the sake of 50 or 100 pounds (B2,000-5,000) it’s not worth taking the risk. Especially in a place like Thailand. People think it’s all palm trees and lovely beaches, but if you fall ill out here... unless you have got money, you’re in trouble.

“Whether you’re in Europe or anywhere in the world, it’s crucial to have it.

“Obviously it has affected Gareth because he’s ill, but it’s affected his friends as well, and my family.

“I’ve got two children and a wife at home expecting me to return home (to the UK) today. But I’m not going home until he’s better.

“It’s touched and affected a lot of people. He’ll be getting a good telling off when he’s home.”

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