Ailing OFW maltreated to the last minute by employer
11/21/2008 08:00 PM
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - After two months in a hospital, a diabetes-stricken Filipino worker in Jeddah whose employer disowned her due to ballooning hospital bills has finally returned to the Philippines.Aida Gutierrez, a sewer in the western Saudi Arabian city, was taken to the Saudi German Hospital on October 2 and was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus and renal failure.Gutierrez was confined at the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, causing her hospital fees to hit 100,000 Saudi riyals or about P1.3 million.Unfortunately for her, she was not covered by any health insurance so she had to shoulder her own hospitalization. Most domestic helpers and other low-paid workers in Saudi Arabia are also not accorded health insurance coverage.It was Precy, her younger sister, who shouldered the initial payment of 2,000 riyals just to get her sister into the emergency room. She said she asked her sister’s employer to pay for the hospital bills but was turned down and even demanded that Gutierrez leave the hospital at once.But doctors did not permit her to leave the hospital in such a condition.Because her employer refused to foot her hospital bills, the patient lingered in hospital and had to be rescued by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and Filipino groups and individuals who answered calls for help.Upon her release from hospital on Wednesday, Gutierrez proceeded to the airport for her flight to Manila via Singapore Airlines, together with her younger sister Precy.
According to Welfare Officer Romeo Pablo, even in her departure, Gutierrez was treated badly by her employer, who reportedly refused to hand over her passport, claiming that she had a problem with her documents.Needled by Pablo and Welfare Officer Romualdo Exmundo to show compassion to her former employee who had served her well, and considering that she did not pay for the hospital bills, the employer reluctantly gave a measly 500 Saudi riyals, or about P7,000.
Pablo said that he had told the employer to come to their office three days before the sisters would leave but he did not show up and just told him that the documents were with her mother.
It was only at the last minute when all passengers of the Singapore Airlines flight have checked in did the employer grudgingly handed over the passport.“Nakakainsulto nagawa pa nilang magbigay pagkatapos na iniwan kami sa aming problema sa ospital (It was insulting how they could do that after they left us at the hospital with so many problems)," Gutierrez later told GMANews.TV in a text message.
Meanwhile, a fellow Filipino who was on the same flight as the sisters was asked to assist them on the way home.“Walang problema aalalayan ko sila para hindi sila mahirapan sa byahe (No problem, I will assist them so that they wouldn’t be hassled during the flight)," said Renato Agra, who went on leave because his mother died in the Philippines. - Ronaldo Concha and Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV