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Three Will Become Four Hobos – Again!

Proving habitual residence is notoriously difficult and it is not reliant on living in one country for 6 months or 183 days. There are several factors to be considered when a person needs to prove habitual residence. The factors include country of birth, location of the person’s main home, where the person’s main income originates, where the person pays income tax, which country provides the person with healthcare. This list is not complete, there are other factors, but the points I have listed are important. 

However, an even more important factor is where the person most wants to live, where s/he will feel safe and secure. 

Tom was born in Paddington, London, in the UK. His only income is a combination of UK State Pension and a UK private pension, out of which he pays a small amount of tax to the British Government. Tom is of no fixed abode, his last main home, in which he could live, was in St. Leonards on Sea, East Sussex, in the UK. France, through bureaucratic inefficiency at best, or unacceptably unjust reasons at worst, has prevented Tom from receiving healthcare here that has not been funded by his UK pensions. Tom became so ill and vulnerable that he desperately wanted to go home to his brother in the UK. 

So, the above factors beg the question, which country was responsible for Tom’s healthcare when he returned to the UK on Friday 1st February 2013? 

I know what my answer was! 

On the Monday after returning to the UK, Tom went to his brother’s doctor to try again to obtain urgent medical care. He was told by the receptionist to go to a hospital ‘drop in’ centre, and that’s what he duly did, taking with him the French documents given to him by the doctors at the Limoges hospital. No joy. The doctor who saw him said, ‘I can’t read French, sorry.” 

On the Tuesday, Tom was running short of steroid medication, steroids taken in high doses can’t be stopped ‘cold turkey’ style. In desperation, he telephoned the DWP in Newcastle and started to clarify his situation to the lass on the other end of the telephone. She asked him a few questions, mainly relevant to his nationality, age and pension status, she then told Tom to go, immediately, to the nearest hospital A&E. He did. That’s where Tom was finally properly assessed and given appropriate treatment, he was in the hospital all day. 

Well, that’s not strictly true, he was given a letter instructing any GP to prescribe the correct medication for his condition, his condition was clarified in the letter. 

On the Wednesday, Tom approached no less than five local GPs for that prescription, he was refused by all five GPs. 

On the Thursday, Tom returned to the hospital A&E Department and advised them about the difficulties he was having, and the fact that he had taken his last dose of steroid medication earlier that morning. A hospital doctor immediately gave Tom the essential prescription and a local chemist filled that prescription. 

Tom has now informed the DWP, Newcastle, that he will be returning to France, he will not be going back to the UK and he has applied for an S1. In the meantime, RSI Aurillac have told me they will definitely add Tom to my carte vitale, RSI Clermont-Ferrand have not adhered to the rules. Voila! 

Three doctors who assessed Tom’s condition in the Limoges hospital advised me that he had a ‘mass’ in his left lung that was affecting the pleural cavity and exacerbating his COPD-related breathing problems. They couldn’t identify the ‘mass’ without further tests, they said it could be anything from an abscess or ulcer to a tumour, and they opted not to advise Tom directly as he was considered, at that time, too ill and vulnerable to be told. But, they concluded, they were treating it as a severe secondary infection, primarily to keep further infection at bay, and those tests were urgently required. 

The tests were carried out in the UK hospital and Tom is receiving intensive treatment for a severe lung infection that, ‘…was possibly caused by exposure to carbon monoxide over a sustained period of time.’ 

Throughout the past year, I have been affected quite badly at times by asthma – I hadn’t had an asthma bout since just after we moved to France early in 2007. 

The lads have had dry coughs, off and on, throughout the past year. We put that down to living back in a house environment following years of living out in the fresh air! 

Carbon monoxide? Very possibly. The lads are much younger and fitter than Tom and me, they don’t sit ‘on top of heat’ as we tend to do – old bones! Of course, Tom was always going to be the most vulnerable due to the COPD. 

We have lived in a couple of houses during the past 5+ years, where there have been open log fires. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be caused by open log fire chimneys that have not been swept as often as they should. That’s a very important fact for consideration by anybody who reads my blog and who has an open log fire – keep yourself and your loved ones safe, have your chimney swept as soon as possible if it hasn’t been swept within the past year.

Tom will be returning to France on Wednesday 20th February, we will be waiting for him. We have all missed him so very much.

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6 Comments

Posted by on February 9, 2013 in World

 

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Four Become Three Hobos!

Tom’s health had deteriorated rapidly during 2012, following a bout of pneumonia just before Christmas 2011. In the UK, in 2005, he had been diagnosed as having COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease/Disorder) at stage one level. Emphysema and asthma were the demons, and he took early retirement in 2006 at the age of 60 years. He had worked and paid into the UK tax and National Insurance system for a fraction under 45 years, he felt he was entitled to real quality of life during his autumn and winter years. I wholeheartedly agreed with him. 

Prior to taking the first steps to selling our UK property, in order to purchase a permanent retirement home in France, Tom and I investigated the potential short and long term effects of COPD, it made sense to do that. The bottom line prognosis was that Tom could expect between ten and fifteen years of relatively good health, as long as he took particularly good care of his lungs.  

Initially, when we moved to France at the beginning of March 2007, we took out full private health insurance. The cost was shocking – in excess of €3,500 for one year’s insurance that covered the two of us 100% for medical care, including hospitalisation, but with less than 30% cover for dental and ophthalmic care. 

Hey-ho, I shouldn’t have worried about the dental cover, Tom has dentures and French crusty bread have removed a lot of my teeth without anaesthetic! 

When Monsieur Sarkozy’s changes to immigrants’ health care hit British ex-patriots in November 2007, Tom and I were relieved that we had the private insurance. Yes, we were already resident in France before the law changed, but we had also experienced a taste of French bureaucracy by then, we tried to steer clear of arguments and hassle! 

Anyway, moving on, my E121 came into play in May 2010 – nearly eight months late, due to British bureaucratic tardiness, by which time the legal fees had kicked renewal of private healthcare into touch. Off we went to CPAM in Aurillac to get the ball rolling towards obtaining our cartes vitales. A five hours car journey, followed by an hour standing in a slow-moving queue that inched towards the stony-faced lass sitting at a cluttered desk assessing claims, ended with a rejection! 

What? 

“Where is your bank RIB, Madame?” 

“Ah, I only have a British bank account at this time, our French bank account has been frozen by the Bank of France because our illegal hairdresser locataire hasn’t paid her water rates, the local Treasury wants us to pay the bill. We have refused to pay the hairdresser’s bill, and we don’t have the funds to pay the bill.” 

“You must give me a French bank RIB, Madame.” 

“I can’t open another bank account because we don’t receive household bills in our names.” 

Gallic shrug from stony-face. Then……….. 

“Why don’t you have household bills, Madame?” 

“Because we can’t live in the property due to………………” I briefly explained the situation. 

“You don’t live in your property, Madame, but other people do live in your property. You have no home in France, you must return to England. Goodbye.” 

Yes, I’m sure the bureaucrats would love to see us abandon our property, and our quest for justice, to jet off back to the UK with nothing left and, as we have very recently discovered, to find we have been abandoned by our country of birth! 

We vacated the CPAM office and drove for five hours back to where we were pet/house sitting. That evening, I registered on-line and started up an AE (Autoentrepreneur) small business as a ‘femme à tout faire’, ie a Jill of all trades, a handyperson. 

RSI took more than two years to give me a carte vitale in return for paid cotisations. Despite me sending several LRAR (registered) letters to RSI Clermont-Ferrand, Tom was never added to my carte vitale – yet, it was his right to be added to my carte vitale. 

So, we have paid cash for Tom’s healthcare in France throughout the lion’s share of our long period of homelessness, to date. Far from easy, but we managed it, just! 

On Wednesday 16 February 2013, Tom was admitted to the CHU (hospital) in Limoges as an emergency. SAMU and the Pompiers were wonderful, my family and I will be forever grateful to them for their efficiency, kindness and care. Although Tom was actually recovering from yet another bout of pneumonia, a secondary lung problem hadn’t responded to the huge doses of antibiotics and steroids he had been taking during the previous two weeks, his oxygen levels had fallen into danger zone. That secondary lung problem was eventually discovered to be the main lung problem. 

Following swift assessment and intensive treatment by super hospital staff, Tom was able to very briefly speak to me from behind his oxygen mask, he said, “I want to go home, Chrissie.” I knew he was referring to the UK as home. I nodded and replied, “Ok, love, I’ll sort it out when you’re well enough to fly to the UK.” Tom relaxed and slept, despite the constant bubbling of oxygen through the water pipe at the back of his hospital bed, and nurses checking his machine-monitored vital stats every few minutes. 

As long as he can breathe, he can sleep on a washing-line, my Tom! 

On Friday 1st February 2013, Tom flew back to the UK. As his wheelchair was pushed towards the aircraft by a member of Limoges airport staff, he didn’t look back. I was so pleased, I was blubbing like a baby and that dismal sight would not have helped Tom! His destination was north London, to live with his youngest brother who lost his sweetheart of a wife to cancer last October. The brothers are very close. 

The following morning, Saturday 2nd February, Tom kept an appointment at the surgery of his brother’s doctor, as he had been advised. He took all the documents given to him by the Limoges hospital doctors; one of those dated documents showed that Tom’s prescribed medication was running very low. 

The doctor’s receptionist told Tom the doctor would not see him.

Why not? That’s for another blog page!

 
16 Comments

Posted by on February 9, 2013 in World

 

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Lots Of Gallic Shrugs!

Christmas 2009 and New Year’s Eve 2010 was a rather depressing festive season for the four of us. We found it difficult to muster any level of enthusiasm, but we realised that we had to do something positive, if we were to survive this major setback and fight another day, another battle, in the same war.

Tom and I travelled to Champagnac to collect accumulated mail, also the Income Tax documents required to support our Legal Aid application. The front of the house, the entrance hall, and the stairways, were in a dreadful mess when we arrived. The front entrance door-lock had been broken, there were boxes and cartons strewn up the stairs to the first floor landing, and there had obviously been a very wet period recently, evidenced by thick mud on stairs and up walls. The beautifully made double-glazed windows and doors, fitted in November 2007, because we were bound by law to honour the order we had placed with the Artisan via our architect, were draped with spiders’ webs and sticky with cooking grease. Tom just focused on where we needed to go to locate the tax documents, I just felt sickened as I followed. Neither of us turned around to take a backward glance as we left the village as quietly as we had arrived. Our friend, Madame ZC, had left our mail in our mailbox that morning, before she left for her son’s house in Paris.

A couple of days into January 2010, I duly wrote a cover letter to accompany the necessary documents to the Bureau d’Aide in Paris, the centre of all French Legal Aid administrations. Then, with nothing better left for us to do, except wait, we started putting our lives back together again, insofar as we could, picking each other up, brushing each other down, starting all over again, as the song goes! At that time, we were pet/house sitting, once again, for Sue and Rick in the Dordogne.

Two weeks later, Tom was looking and feeling very unwell due to dreadful pain in his toes, in fact, most of his foot had turned purple-black by then, although he had been treated for an infection at Sarlat Hospital some weeks before; he was actually treated for infections in his foot several times, by different doctors, in different towns and Departments, throughout a period in excess of a year. Tom was also suffering from a chest infection that just would not respond to antibiotics. I telephoned our private health insurance company to find out if we needed to be in the Cantal for Tom to have hospital treatment. The agent was very unhelpful, and I got quite sharp with him after fifteen minutes of listening to opening and closing files, papers rustling, heavy breathing, and a series of very audible Gallic shrugs. Eventually, the agent returned to the phone to tell me our health insurance had been stopped, and it would not be renewed. Just like that! We have never discovered why that happened, despite writing several times to the company’s Head Office in Paris. We will leave that little conundrum for the legal powers-that-be to unravel, in due course.

Fortunately – and, it will become clear why I say ‘fortunately’ – we received a call from Tom’s youngest brother, Pete, in London, to tell us their middle brother, Martin, was undergoing serious heart surgery possibly that week. Tom didn’t hesitate, he left France for the UK within hours, heading for my eldest son, Iam, and his lovely wife, Tracy, in Northumberland, planning to be with his younger brothers two days later.

Within hours of arriving in Northumberland, Tom had been admitted into hospital for emergency surgery to remove at least one toe that was beyond saving, due to gangrene in the small bones, as far as could be ascertained at that point. Iam had immediately contacted me to let me know what was happening, and the following two weeks consisted of endless days filled with anxiety as we waited to find out what else might need to be amputated.

I believe those two weeks were probably the very worst that we, certainly that I, have endured throughout this entire, disastrous chapter in our lives.

 

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