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Expat Community In Bahrain Advocates For Urgent Need Of Affordable Health Insurance For Poor Expats

Manama, June 8, 2023: In a heartwarming tale of compassion and community support, Mr. Kulwinder Kumar, a 41-year-old man from Punjab, successfully returned to India for further medical treatment after a life-threatening cardiac arrest and acute stroke. His journey back home was made possible through the collaborative efforts of individuals and organisations both in Bahrain and India.

Mr. Kumar’s medical journey began when he was admitted to the SMC Cardiology Department in Bahrain on November 21, 2022, with no prior known medical conditions. Following several weeks of intensive care, he showed signs of improvement, and on January 18, 2023, he was successfully extubated. Determined to continue his treatment in his homeland, Mr. Kumar expressed his desire to return to India.

Ali Juma, Mr. Kumar’s employer, extended his support by generously covering the stretcher charges and arranging a medical escort ticket. Recognising the urgency of the situation, Sudheer Thirunilath, the Global PRO and Bahrain Country Head of Pravasi Legal Cell, took the initiative to reach out to the Chief Minister of Punjab, the health ministry, and a government undertaking hospital in India. Through tireless efforts, Mr. Thirunilath successfully coordinated the provision of a stretcher facility, an ambulance, and admission to a hospital in India.

The Indian expat community, known for its strong sense of solidarity, also played a significant role in this heartening tale. Women from the community volunteered to contact and coordinate with Mr. Kumar’s family members, ensuring that all necessary arrangements were made. Their collective efforts and unwavering support were instrumental in facilitating Mr. Kumar’s safe return to India on June 6, 2023.

This heartwarming instance sheds light on the challenges faced by individuals, particularly single earners, within the Indian expat community who may lack the financial means to access proper medical care abroad. Moreover, the difficulties in connecting with government authorities and healthcare institutions in India for free treatment exacerbate the situation.

Advocating for change, Sudheer Thirunilath emphasised the need for the central government of India to recognise the significance of health insurance for Indians working overseas. He called for increased support and policies that would safeguard the health and well-being of expats. The expatriate community in Bahrain is known for its proactive engagement and compassionate nature, going above and beyond to aid those in need. Thirunilath himself serves as the Indian Diaspora Ambassador, wearing multiple hats as a social activist and the country head of the Pravasi Legal Cell in Bahrain.

Mr. Kumar’s successful journey back to India serves as a testament to the power of unity and community support, showcasing the extraordinary lengths individuals are willing to go to help those in distress. This heartwarming story serves as an inspiration to all, highlighting the importance of compassion and collective action in making a positive impact on people’s lives.

A strong call for medical insurance coverage for all Indians travelling abroad, encompassing various expenses, including post-return medical treatments, is resonating among the expat community. Highlighting the plight of sole breadwinners who sacrifice their own well-being to support their families back home, advocates are emphasising the urgent need for comprehensive coverage. Sudheer Thirunilath, a prominent figure in this campaign, stated that expats facing acute strokes are left in a helpless situation, grappling with extensive paperwork to secure their departure from the host country.

The recent case of Mr. Kumar, hailing from an economically disadvantaged background, exemplifies the challenges faced by such individuals. Fortunately, his employer extended generous support by covering the costs of tickets and a medical escort, working closely with officials from the SMC (name of the hospital or organisation). However, these cases require long-term medical follow-up, necessitating Indian hospitals to provide assurances of assistance.

While Kerala has established associations, community groups, and the Non-Resident Keralite Affairs welfare agency to lend support, workers from other states lack similar resources. A collective network of hospital providers serving as a common help desk for Indians returning from Gulf countries due to medical issues would be invaluable.

Presently, India offers the Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Yojna (PBBY), a mandatory insurance scheme exclusively for Emigration Check Required (ECR) workers. The PBBY provides coverage up to Rs 10 lakhs (BD 4, 555) for accidental death or permanent disability while working abroad, with premiums ranging from Rs 275 (BD1.200) to Rs 375 (BD1.700) for one to three years, respectively.

However, there is a growing realisation that more comprehensive and inclusive coverage is necessary, encompassing all Indian expats. The insurance should extend beyond accidental death or disability, taking into account various medical scenarios and ensuring adequate support in case of emergencies.

Furthermore, the Indian Community Relief Fund, operating under the patronage of the Indian Embassy, offers financial aid through the Family Welfare Fund to the dependents of deceased Indians who worked in Bahrain and earned less than BD125 monthly. Since its establishment in 2012, the programme has provided vital assistance to over 550 families.

As the movement gains momentum, advocates urge the government to take prompt action, considering the crucial role of health insurance in safeguarding the well-being of Indian expats worldwide.

Amidst their remarkable acts of compassion, the Indian expat community in Bahrain is now shedding light on an urgent issue plaguing the lives of many underprivileged expats. As they continue to extend a helping hand to those in need, they are also demanding greater attention to the dire need for health insurance coverage for individuals facing financial constraints. The expat community firmly believes that affordable and accessible health insurance is a crucial requirement for the well-being and security of expats, particularly those who are economically vulnerable. With their unwavering commitment to supporting fellow expatriates, they are raising their voices to emphasise the significance of addressing this pressing issue and striving for a more inclusive and supportive system for all.

Sarmistha Dey

Sarmistha Dey is an Indian Diaspora staff reporter at WFY, Bahrain bureau. She is an experienced HR and media professional. She is a poet as well as a singer.

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