Family hit with $300K medical bill after father falls ill during a visit

A son is looking to the community for help to pay his father's medical bill after an unexpected hospital stay in Winnipeg.

Sahib Brar's father required 2 surgeries, spent 56 days in hospital

Sahib Brar holds the hospital bill for $308,051 he was given after his father spent 56 days at St. Boniface Hospital to resolve a serious stomach infection. Travel insurance only covers $100,000 of the amount. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

A son is looking to the community for help to pay his father's medical bill after an unexpected hospital stay in Winnipeg.

Sahib Brar's father, Surinder Singh, fell ill in June and ended up spending nearly two months at St. Boniface Hospital, receiving two surgeries to help resolve a life-threatening stomach infection.

Even after his father's travel insurance covered the maximum amount, $100,000, Brar still owes the hospital $208,051.

"A normal person like me, they can't pay that off," the son said. "I never expected my dad to come here to see me and he's going to end up staying 56 days in hospital."

Brar, a 27-year-old mechanical engineer, has not worked since last October when he was involved in a car accident that left him with a broken leg. He has been living off employment insurance paid for by Manitoba Public Insurance.

In part his parents' reason for travelling to Winnipeg from their home in Amritsar, India, was to check in on him and help out after the accident. 

"It's time to pay him back," said Brar on Tuesday. "He did everything for me. Now, if he's in need, I can't say no."

Sahib Brar stands with his father, Surinder Singh, and his mother, Sarabjit Kaur, a few days before his father fell ill. (Submitted by Sahib Brar)

It was only a couple weeks into his parents' visit when Brar's father, 59, began to feel unwell.

He was admitted to hospital June 13 after some intestinal discomfort and breathing trouble. A few days later, surgeons removed his colon. After a second surgery to close his stomach, Singh was discharged from hospital Aug. 7.

The same day, Brar was handed the bill. 

While his father has been slowly recovering at home, Brar and his brothers have been figuring out ways to pay it off. He met with a representative from the hospital, he said, who told him the hospital would work with the family so the balance can be paid off through instalments. 

Brar has also started a GoFundMe, where nearly $30,000 has been raised so far.

"We see 'Friendly Manitoba' on our licence plates, now it's time to show," he said, adding what happened to his father could happen to any visitor to Canada.

"I'm asking for the community to help me out."

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said in an email the rates for people who aren't covered by provincial health insurance are set by Manitoba Health. In such cases, she said hospitals will work with a patient's insurers before bills are created to ensure they remain informed about any charges while they receive care.

"St. Boniface Hospital is committed to providing care for all who come to us in need and will work with families who struggle to pay the full amount owing," the spokesperson said.