The plight of a patient

To obtain exit visa, accident victim asked to pay SR210,000 in hospital bill

February 01, 2018

Irfan Mohammed

Saudi Gazette

A VICTIM of deadly road accident, Shaikh Arif has been without a job and a salary for years. The expatriate worker from Guntur, India, had fought a long battle with life in a public hospital.

He was rescued and rushed to King Abdulaziz Hospital in Taif by traffic police and emergency ambulance teams following an accident caused by a Saudi citizen. He spent more than 11 months, including three months in a state of coma, in the hospital.

But the shock of his life came when he approached the passport authorities for an exit visa. Unable to find a job after his release from hospital, Arif decided to leave Saudi Arabia for good. But passport officials told him that he was barred from leaving the Kingdom as he was wanted by the police for nonpayment of his hospital bill amounting to more than SR200,000.

Since then Arif, without a job, food or even a shelter, has been hanging around mosques in Taif's chilly evenings. During the day he has been desperately running after various authorities to prove that he was innocent of any wrongdoing and that he was not to blame for an accident of which he was only a victim.

The heart-rending story of the 30-year-old Indian began after he complained against his employer in the labor office for nonpayment of salary.

Arif had been working as a plant operator in a bricks factory in Bida village in Baha province. Along with over a dozen of his colleagues, Arif had approached the labor office in Baha complaining about nonpayment of salary by his employer.

Arif said instead of solving their problem, his employer took revenge by reporting him an absconder from work.

"As we did not have money to pay for transportation from the village where our plant and accommodation were located, we were not able to effectively present our case in the labor office in Baha," recalled Arif.

Without a job and food in a remote area he went through a very painful time.

After hearing about his plight, a Saudi citizen offered him a job and assured to help him in sorting out his case with the labor office including the change of sponsorship, Arif said.

"I was traveling with the Saudi citizen in his car to his village, but suddenly the vehicle overturned. I don't remember what happened after that," Arif said while narrating the tragic accident in 2015.

"When I opened my eyes I was in the ICU. I came to know that it was King Abdulaziz Hospital in Taif and that I was in a coma for more than three months. I was brought there by the traffic police," Arif said.

After emerging from the coma he had to spend another eight months in the hospital.

"While walking out of the hospital, I looked for my clothes and other personal belongings. I was wearing the clothes for in-patients supplied by the hospital all these months. Suddenly the Saudi gentleman who had been driving the car on the day of the accident approached me and told that my personal belongings were safe, but I must sign a paper to receive them," Arif said.

"Since he had offered me a job and also visited me a couple of times in the hospital, I trusted him and signed the paper," he added.

Arif said when he was discharged from hospital in 2016, he discovered that the employment situation especially in the construction sector had become grim. He was hardly able to find any unskilled job for survival. His residency permit has already expired, further complicating his situation.

Under the circumstances, Arif decided to leave the Kingdom for good. When he visited the passport police for exit clearance, he was informed that there was a court case against him. The hospital had filed the case for nonpayment of his discharge bill, which amounted to SR210,670.

Arif believes that the paper that he had hastily signed at the time of his release from hospital was used to frame the case against him. He said he did not walk into the hospital on his own but was brought there by relevant government authorities following his rescue from a road accident. And he was in a coma for three months.

After coming out of coma, he spent another eight months in the hospital in a conscious state but the hospital authorities never mentioned to him about the bill, Arif said.

"Why the hospital authorities kept mum about the bill for such a staggering amount if I was supposed to pay up," he asked.

Arif has been desperately running between courts, police stations, the hospital and the Consulate General of India in Jeddah pleading for help to get his case reviewed and allow him to return home.

"After examining my plea, the court in Taif referred the case to a court in Baha. But in the absence of valid residency documents, I am not able to travel to Baha to present my case in the court there," Arif said.

"In falling winter temperatures in the hill city of Taif and being an illegal resident with an expired residency permit, I am passing through extreme hardships without any money even to buy food," a distraught Arif said in a choking voice.

Unfortunately access to legal aid is unthinkable for the overwhelming majority of Asian expatriates such as Arif because of the huge costs.

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