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Why falling ill in Greece could mean owing thousands of pounds for medical care

Holidaymakers travelling to Greece are being warned about falling ill or requiring hospital treatment for Greek holiday illness, as cash-strapped Greek hospitals and health authorities might not be able to afford to treat them.

EU tourists are usually covered for the costs of treating Greek holiday illness or accidents by a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – but the economy may mean local hospitals in Greece might be unable to afford to treat overseas patients.

As a result, any holidaymakers to Greece requiring Greek holiday illness or holiday accident treatment might be sent to private hospitals, where treatment might cost them thousands of pounds

A further 230,000 holidaymakers are estimated to be travelling to Greece this summer without vital holiday insurance – and in these cases, if they fall ill, they would have to fund their own treatment at Greek’s private medical clinics.

The EHIC will now only cover tourists and visitors to Greece for treatments available at local level as Greek citizens are also experiencing cutbacks in medical care.

A British grandmother was left with a £17,000 bill for hospital treatment after she developed a strangulated bowel while on Crete in May.

Penelope Southern, 57, from Hampshire, believed her insurer Virgin backed up by the EHIC would cover her treatment, but because Mrs Southern had previously beaten cancer and other medical problems three years earlier, her insurers said her condition and the operation she needed urgently resulted from previous medical conditions and so she would not be covered for the costs incurred.

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Mrs Southern’s doctor supplied a note saying that her strangulated bowel was not linked to previous medical conditions, but no local Greek hospital would treat her under the EHIC and a friend had to loan her £17,320 to pay for the life-saving surgery.

Treatment will only be covered and billed to the NHS if available to local Greek citizens, UK holidaymakers to Greece are being warned.

The Greek government said the incident regarding Mrs Southern’s treatment was “isolated” and services were being provided “as normal”.

The Department of Health in the UK added:

“Our advice remains that individuals should have appropriate holiday insurance that covers all eventualities, in addition to the EHIC.”

Having travel health cover and an EHIC saves insurance companies money and can also help waive any excess. Travel insurance can also cover the cost of been flown home to the UK if you fall ill or have an accident.

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Dated: 26/06/2012

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