Cape Town – The grieving family of a man who died after his medical aid refused to pay for his private hospital admission blames his death on his employer, the SA Post Office (Sapo), for not paying members’ contributions to the medical aid.
Gatesville Post Office employee Michael de Bruyn, 49, died last Monday after being taken first to Melomed Mitchells Plain private hospital when he developed stroke-like symptoms.
Speaking to the Cape Argus, De Bruyn’s widow Debbie said she took him to Melomed last Monday morning, but was turned away when Medipos, the medical scheme for post office employees was unavailable due to Sapo not making payments. This despite medical aid contributions being deducted from employee salaries.
De Bruyn was then taken to Mitchells Plain District Hospital, where he died a few hours later from a stroke.
De Bruyn said her husband told her the medical aid would not help them because the post office medical aid fund was on hold, but thought since neither herself nor her husband had ever been admitted to hospital or been sick, there had to be funds available.
The family from Eastridge, Mitchells Plain, were at a loss as to how there were no medical aid funds for De Bruyn that day when approximately R2 000 was deducted every month from his salary for his medical aid contributions.
“It could have been different,” she said.
Her son Ryan said: “I feel the post office is wrong in this situation. I want to take this further, they are deducting money every month but are not paying the medical aid.”
SA Post Office spokesperson Johan Kruger told the Cape Argus the post office was unable to pay the medical aid fees for November 2022 owing to cash flow problems and employees were informed the company was not able to cover medical aid fees.
“The post office acknowledges the amounts outstanding to medical aid providers. The post office policy provides for the employer to pay two-thirds of employees’ medical aid contribution and the member pays only a third. Given the post office’s financial situation, the two-thirds employer contribution is no longer sustainable,” he said.
Kruger said the post office was in consultation with stakeholders, exploring more cost-effective medical cover for its employees.
“The SA Post Office sincerely regrets the passing of Mr De Bruyn, and wishes to extend its condolences to his family, friends and colleagues,” he said.
De Bruyn said her husband was unable to walk or use his hand when they arrived at Melomed and she told the hospital her husband was having a stroke.
Melomed Mitchells Plain manager Faizel Hendricks said the hospital was not aware of the emergency.
“It is clear from the CCTV footage that Michael never entered the Melomed and/or the trauma unit. Debbie also never made Melomed and/or the Trauma Unit aware that Michael was accompanying her to the facility. We therefore were not aware that Michael was with Debbie and/or the state of his medical condition,” he said.
Hendricks said even if they did not accept Medipos, they were obligated to stabilise the patient.
He said they conducted thorough investigations, interviewed staff members and reviewed the CCTV video footage into the allegations and denied Mr De Bruyn was turned away.
Monique Johnstone, spokesperson for the Western Cape Health Department said De Bruyn was treated as an urgent medical emergency at Mitchells Plain Hospital and had an electrocardiogram (ECG) and laboratory test done, thereafter he was assessed by the doctor who diagnosed his condition and the appropriate medical care was provided.
“Early evening, Mr De Bruyn deteriorated significantly despite treatment and the treating doctor counselled Mrs De Bruyn regarding his worsening condition. Despite treatment, he sadly passed away,” she said.
Dianne Kohler-Barnard, MP DA spokesperson for Communications and Digital Technologies, told the Cape Argus: “The blame for this tragic death of Mr De Bruyn must be placed squarely at the door of the Sapo management.”
She said that because of SAPO failing to pay staff and pensioners medical aid contributions, the De Bruyn tragedy was one unfortunately of many that had come to her attention.
Earlier this year, she encouraged Sapo members, who also had their medical aid stopped despite paying their contributions, to send her their details for an investigation into the “mismanagement and thievery that is taking place at the entity”, which has since been handed over to the Hawks.
“I was then inundated with information from people whose elderly mother or father had worked for the PO and had now had their medical aid cut, and were receiving letters of demand for hundreds of thousands of rands for medical aid contributions not paid. There were cancer survivors who being refused urgent chemotherapy treatment and many with other life-threatening illness simply being turned away from the private hospitals covered by their medical aid,” Kohler-Barnard said.
She said it was fraud when medical aid deductions were taken from salaries and not paid over to a Medical Aid.
Kohler-Barnard added the recently released Post Office Annual report showed SAPO reported a net loss of R2.2 billion, despite receiving massive bailouts from government.