Research by the Hamburger Morgenpost (MOPO) suggests that Steve O., a 55-year-old from Ghana, was denied emergency treatment because he did not have health insurance.
The Ghanaian had needed heart surgery, but was refused treatment at Asklepios Clinics in St. Georg and Harburg, as well as the UKE hospital, the Albertinen hospital and a clinic in nearby Lübeck.
Steve O. died before a hospital could be found to treat him.
The 55-year-old had entered the country without documentation and as such did not have health insurance in Germany.
But the hospitals have denied the accusation that the refusal was based on his lack of insurance.
Spokespeople for the UKE hospital and the Albertinen hospital said that their operating rooms were being used at the point of the emergency and that they simply didn't have doctors available to operate on Steve O.
"Medical emergencies are always treated – regardless of the patient's insurance status," the Albertinen hospital spokesperson said.
"It wasn't possible for us to know that the time period for a transfer of the patient was so short," a spokesperson for the Asklepios hospital said. "On the next day a transfer would have been possible. But by this time the patient was in no position to be moved."
Steve O. had been taken in to the Asklepios Clinic in Wandsbeck for treatment on September 3rd, the day of his 55th birthday.
He was thought to have meningitis and was put in intensive care. At first his situation stabilized, but six days later doctors detected an inflammation in his heart valve. Because the Wandsbeck hospital did not have heart specialists, they tried to have him transferred.
The seriousness of his condition meant "he needed to be handled by a heart specialist and his transfer into a specialist clinic became necessary,“ a spokesperson for the Wandsbeck Clinic told MOPO.
While refugees receive health insurance at the point of their registration in Germany, people who come to the country but do not register with authorities are not insured.