Rock trap victim back home, facing huge medical costs


KAOHSIUNG — A Taiwanese survivor of 27 hours trapped in a crevice on Uluru in Australia returned to his hometown of Kaohsiung Monday, where he is faced with follow-up medical treatment and daunting medical costs his mother says he cannot afford.

Twenty-seven-year-old Yang Cheng-hsiao was admitted to Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital after landing in the Southern Taiwan port city.

Suffering from multiple bone fractures to his face, chest, ribs, spine and limbs, Yang appeared frail and weak, lying on a stretcher.

His family has paid off NT$300,000 (US$9,760)-worth of medical treatment bills at Alice Springs Hospital in central Australia, but still faces around NT$2 million-worth of rescue and aerial transport charges, Yang’s mother said.

In addition, her son still requires follow-up medical treatment, she lamented, adding that the family cannot afford the medical costs without help.

Yang’s mother called for assistance from social charities. ��We will pay back in the future when we are capable of doing so,�� she said in an interview with local media reporters in the company of Kaohsiung Social Affairs Bureau officials and Formosa SOS physician Lu Li-hua.

Formosa SOS is an emergency rescue team organized by Tung’s Taichung MetroHarbor Hospital to offer international transport services.

Experienced in international rescue operations, Lu, also the chief executive of the Tung’s hospital’s emergency medical treatment department, urged Taiwanese young people on working vacations overseas to secure proper insurance before leaving home.

He suggested that young travelers find insurance companies to ensure they can receive enough reimbursement for medical care expenses should an accident occur.

What makes the Yang family’s predicament even more difficult is that Yang withdrew from Taiwan’s national health insurance system because he failed to pay the monthly premium during the period of his stay in Australia, according to Lu.

Even though Yang has resumed payment, he won’t be able to receive the reimbursement immediately for his upcoming medical treatment costs at Chang Gung Hospital, Lu said.

Yang, who was on a working holiday in Australia, fell 20 meters into a crevice on Uluru �X also known as Ayers Rock �X in the Northern Territory on June 11 after straying off the normal route.

He was rescued the next day in what police described as a slow and difficult process involving a helicopter and an abseiling operation, according to a foreign news report.