Holiday injury becomes insurance nightmare

A travel insurance company urged former Throsby MP Colin Hollis to join a long-haul flight within weeks of surgery for a broken leg, despite his doctor warning the flight carried a high risk of deep vein thrombosis.

Mr Hollis was dismounting his bike on a steep hill in a village near Lucon, in western France, when he fell heavily and broke his femur in late July.

The break occurred near his hip. During surgery, metal pins were inserted into his bones and staples used to close the wound.

Mr Hollis said his insurer, NRMA Travel Insurance, at first assured him he was fully covered; that they would rearrange his flights; that "everything will be OK".

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But he said representatives of the company later insisted he fly home to Australia, against the wishes of his French orthopaedic surgeon, who warned of the risk of deep vein thrombosis should he fly within two months of the accident.

"So concerned was he about DVT that he put this in writing and I had to sign to say I understood his medical warning, although he did agree that I could return to London," Mr Hollis said.

Mr Hollis, 72, who lives at Jamberoo, offered his experience as a cautionary tale this week after reading of the inquest into the deaths of Illawarra women Jennifer Channell and Helen Ivanoska, both as a result of deep vein thrombosis.

Mr Hollis said a representative of NRMA Travel Insurance contacted him two weeks after his accident, saying he must return to Australia the next day or his insurance coverage would be cancelled, even though the policy was to the end of September.

He said he faxed his doctor's letter as proof, but the insurer - via a New Zealand company - later phoned and said the company's own medical advisors felt he was able to fly.

"Their experts informed me that 'the French overprescribe' and that they stood by the decision that I was no longer covered," Mr Hollis said.

He refused to fly and spent two months in London recovering before eventually returning to Australia on a business class flight, arranged by the insurer.

He said he racked up hundreds of dollars in phone bills and fax costs as he attempted to negotiate with the insurer, and said thousands of dollars in claims, including for an ambulance, had still to be met.

An NRMA Insurance spokeswoman said the company had attempted to resolve the situation "as our priority".

"Considering Mr Hollis's age and the fact he needed ongoing physiotherapy to fully recover from his injury, the decision to return Mr Hollis home was made by our experienced, specialist medical team who are based in New Zealand. They have many years' experience in the successful repatriation and management of injured travellers worldwide," the spokeswoman said.

The woman said the company arranged "commonly prescribed" injections to reduce the DVT risk, offered Mr Hollis a business class upgrade for his return to Australia to ensure his comfort, and expected to complete his settlement for additional costs this week.

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