While relatively rare, a childhood cancer diagnosis can be emotionally devastating for the patient and their family, who often also have to deal with the additional stress of the financial burden that comes with the cost of treatment and hospitalisation.
According to the Cancer Association of South Africa, between 800 and 1 000 children in South Africa are unfortunately diagnosed with cancer annually. However, many childhood cancers are treatable with a high treatment success rate of between 70% and 80% in well-resourced countries.
Despite this, the financial impact of having to fund cancer treatment – either fully or even partially – can become a nightmare, as experienced by Deolinda Delcarme, whose daughter, Gemma, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at the age of nine, in December 2016.
“For any family going through this, it is a nightmare. No one expects a cancer diagnosis, so no one has money stashed away in case they suddenly need to pay for treatment. That is exactly what happened to us,” says Delcarme.
Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is a cancer that invades the blood and bone marrow, reducing the body’s ability to fight basic infection. Delcarme recalls that the diagnosis came at a time when she had just been retrenched from her job. To make the situation worse, Gemma’s father did not earn an income at the time, which added even more stress and financial worry.
“It was a treacherous situation. We basically had no money, I only had my retrenchment package and could only find temporary contract work, which did not pay much,” she says.
However, she managed to save enough to get a hospital plan, but that only covered hospitalisation. All other treatments and procedures had to be paid for by Delcarme, who was lucky enough to raise funds through her personal and professional network.
“Part of the stress is not knowing where you’ll get the money. Gemma’s treatment plan was so extensive – it wasn’t just an in-hospital surgery but included a number of additional procedures that medical aids normally cover.”
Delcarme found fulltime employment in 2019 and could eventually afford medical aid cover. While she also applied for gap cover, she would only qualify for it in 12 months’ time, due to Gemma’s existing condition.
Gap cover cannot be neglected
Turnberry CEO Tony Singleton explains that gap cover is a short-term insurance product that helps protect patients from medical expense shortfalls, which can occur when doctors charge more than the medical aid rate for in-hospital treatment, or there are co-payments charged by the Medical Aid.
“Gap cover has become an essential component of any financial portfolio to protect people against potentially crippling medical expense shortfalls. Often, it is the unforeseen that can result in the most significant shortfalls, and gap cover can save a patient’s financial wellbeing along with their physical health,” he says.
“It is essential that you consult your Financial Adviser to assist you with selecting the correct health care products to suit your own specific circumstances” he says.
As part of Gemma’s journey, she has also been receiving emotional support from Machi Filotimo Cancer Project, through which she also sells her artwork, with part of the proceeds going to the project. “We are here to help support patients via our navigation projects, as we know how hard it is to think clearly and make sound decisions in the midst of a cancer diagnosis. We have navigators that can support patients and their parents through their journeys,” says Evy Michalopoulos, founder and CEO of the project.
About Turnberry Management Risk Solutions
Founded in 2001, Turnberry is a registered financial services provider (FSP no. 36571) that specialises in Accident and Health Insurance, Travel Insurance, and Funeral Cover.
With extensive experience across healthcare and insurance industries in South Africa, Turnberry offers unsurpassed service to Brokers and clients. Turnberry’s gap cover products are available to clients on all medical aid schemes, as they are independently provided and are therefore transferable in the event of a change in the client’s medical aid scheme.
Turnberry is well represented nationally, with its Head Office based in Bedfordview, Johannesburg with Business Development Managers in Cape Town and Durban. The Turnberry Team’s focus on outstanding client service comes from having extensive knowledge and experience in the financial services sector and is underwritten by Lombard Insurance Company Limited. Lombard Insurance Company Limited is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (FSP 1596) and Insurer conducting non-life insurance business.