A plea for donations to help cover her boyfriend’s medical costs prompted headlines accusing Cambodian doctors of demanding £20,000 ($26,222) to save his lung.
But Alana Castillo Fonseca clarified on Monday that her partner had been mistreated by an insurance company, and not Cambodian doctors.
Scottish national Anthony Igoe, 31, and Fonseca, 28, who is from Malta, have been together for 12 years and arrived in Cambodia almost two years ago.
Early this month, Igoe had to be hospitalised for Haemophilus pneumonia and an abscess in his lung due to a bacterium that causes melioidosis (an infection caused by the gram-negative bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei).
Their health insurer, Cigna Global, denied them coverage, and Fonseca started a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising the £20,000 cost of treatment. As of Monday, she had raised £13,320 through donations.
On her GoFundMe page, Fonseca wrote: “We are now in a battle with an insurance company. They are denying us everything, and we have literally just been told they have to remove my partner’s lung. Any little thing will help. Please, I implore someone, anyone, to help us during these times.
On May 15, she posted a bill from the Royal Phnom Penh hospital which estimated the cost of treatment to be $26,622.
The story was picked up by international media and created controversial headlines. Scottish tabloid The Daily Record wrote: “Sick Scot battling infection in Cambodian hospital told to hand over £20k or docs will take out lung”.
The Scottish Sun, another Scottish tabloid, wrote: “BRUTAL FIGHT Scots teacher stricken in Cambodian hospital faces losing lung unless £20k is handed over to medics”.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine could not be reached for comment on Monday, but she denied to Fresh News that the hospital had demanded £20,000 from foreign patients for treatment.
Referring to The Daily Record article, Fonseca told The Post on Monday: “What I told her [Daily Record reporter] was we couldn’t get the money to cover costs for my partner’s treatment. The only other option would be for us to pay for another hospital to take out his lung.
“Not because we were threatened, but because it’s a private hospital. So they are not going to just give you free treatment. I think because they [reporters] come from Scotland, where healthcare is free, so, I think she took it the wrong way.”
She said The Daily Record reporter might have thought she was threatened to pay for the treatment when she said they needed funds to keep him in hospital.
“I think it was just a misunderstanding and I was upset. She probably took it the wrong way. But never in my life did I say anything bad about Cambodia. We’ve only received help from the Khmer people and the hospital,” she said.
Having seen the media reports, Fonseca took to Facebook to clarify the misinterpretation of The Daily Record article. She said she continuously thanked the hospital and doctors caring for Igoe and had no ill feelings towards anyone.
On her Facebook page, Fonseca wrote: “It is the insurance company that put us in this situation and not Cambodia or the hospital. Khmer people are amazing, kind, helpful and have been nothing short of saints, to say the least.”
She said Igoe was being treated and getting better, thanks to funds raised on the GoFundMe page.
The Royal Phnom Penh hospital declined to provide details on Monday, saying it could not do so without prior consent from its patients.