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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Watchman in Fujairah struggles with medication costs due to lack of cover

Roberto Afaga earns Dh1,500 a month and must pay Dh200 a month for medicine to treat his high blood pressure

Roberto Afaga, a watchman in Fujairah, does not have health insurance and so must pay for his medication out of pocket. Ruba Haza / The National
Roberto Afaga, a watchman in Fujairah, does not have health insurance and so must pay for his medication out of pocket. Ruba Haza / The National

A watchman in Fujairah spends nearly half his monthly budget on medication because he is not medically insured.

Roberto Afaga is a father of eight who earns Dh1,500 a month. In April, he was rushed to hospital after experiencing chest pains and difficulty breathing at work.

Diagnosed with a heart condition, the uninsured watchman was prescribed medication to regulate his high blood pressure which costs him Dh200 a month.

Mr Afaga remits Dh1,000 a month to the Philippines to support his wife and four of his school-age children. The youngest is seven.

His employer paid for a heart catheterization to diagnose his condition and the first month of his medication, which totalled Dh20,000.

“I don’t have insurance and when I got sick last April, I was afraid that I won’t have the chance to get any treatment, but my boss covered all the expenses and told me not to worry,” said Mr Afaga, who is 52 and shares a room with two other watchmen in Fujairah.

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“I didn’t have money and I was really scared that I would die but my boss called and told me that he will take care of it. I was very relieved.”

Despite his employer’s help, the cost of monthly medication has taken a toll on Mr Afaga.

“If I ask my boss to cover it I’m sure he won’t mind but I feel that he has already paid a lot.”

Mr Afaga’s low salary makes him ineligible for a bank loan. If his employer hadn’t paid for the initial treatment, he would have been forced to turn to relatives for support, but said he was unsure whether they would be able to help.

Before moving to the UAE in 2015, Mr Afaga worked as a carpenter. If he becomes ill and his employer does not cover his expenses, he could be in debt for years, he said.

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