Aussie tourist's insurance warning after 'inhumane' treatment in Bali

Kayla Heagney, 29, was rushed to hospital after starting to feel intense pain across her stomach. But it wasn't long before she made a painful dash to Australia.

Kayla Heagney and Nicola Fox with their son (left) and Kayla in a hospital bed in Bali attached to tubes (right).
Kayla Heagney and Nicola Fox were on holiday in Bali when Kayla began to get intense pain in her stomach. Source: Supplied

They went to Bali to make memories – but not like this.

What was supposed to be a relaxing family getaway turned into a medical nightmare for one Aussie woman who claims hospital staff in Bali were "barely" keeping her alive while her partner fought with their insurer to cover the cost of her medical bills while she lay in "agonising" pain.

Kayla Heagney, 29, travelled from Newcastle to Bali with her partner Nicola Fox, 30, and two-year old son. But last week, just a few days into their trip, she began to feel "pain across the middle of my belly".

As the pain intensified, they rushed to hospital where Kayla was immediately ushered into a bed in the intensive care unit.

"The doctor said there was something seriously wrong with my pancreas, I needed a procedure done immediately and if I didn't then the worst outcome would happen," Kayla told Yahoo News.

Fearing the worst, the couple paid an initial upfront cost of $500 so Kayla could receive treatment.

Nicola leans against Kayla in hospital (left) and looks frazzled in front of Kayla in bed (right).
The couple thought Kayla might die while in hospital in Bali. Source: Supplied

The couple stayed in the hospital for over 24 hours and described Kayla's treatment as "inhumane". They believe medical staff were only doing the bare minimum to keep Kayla alive, putting a feeding tube down her nose against her will and giving her medication without explaining to her what it was.

"They pinned her down on the bed and she was vomiting everywhere. Vomit was coming out of her nose through the tube, it was coming from her mouth. The doctor and nurse just threw paper towels at me and left, I had to clean the vomit off her chest," Nicola said.

Given she was hooked up to so many tubes, Kayla claims she was unable to get up and use the bathroom and was given little to eat or drink by hospital staff.

Meanwhile Nicola pleaded with their travel insurance company in Australia over the phone. But with no action in sight, and the pair at this point incurring $5,000 in hospital fees, they went against Balinese medical advice and discharged Kayla in a desperate attempt to get home.

"I was so desperate to get back and get the help I needed here in Australia. So I just used all my strength to hold it together," Kayla said. "I thought I was going to die."

Kayla Heagney and Nicola Fox pictured smiling with their child before Bali holiday.
The couple have travelled to Bali previously, but the latest trip turned into a nightmare. Source: Instagram

After the six hour plane journey and two hour car ride back to Newcastle from Sydney, they got Kayla into a hospital where staff confirmed she had acute pancreatitis. Aussie doctors said much of the treatment she received in Bali was not needed, while vital hydration measures simply weren't taken.

The couple, who have both been to Bali numerous times, are now unsure if they would go back after the "traumatic" experience.

"What we experienced in the hospital is definitely not a reflection of the Bali that we know and love... our whole aim is to educate others," Nicola said. "I think it's just really making sure that you are so stringent with insurance. I thought that buying a comprehensive cover was enough.

"We were fortunate that we did have a little bit of money to fall back on, but that money quickly ran out... get the right cover."

The couple says they had taken out insurance with Budget Direct but the insurer was initially unwilling to pay for the medical costs upfront and Kayla and Nicole say they were advised if they left the hospital against medical advice it would potentially void any claim they might make.

When contacted by Yahoo, the company said it couldn't comment on specific cases citing "customer privacy considerations".

"We strive to approach all claims in a fair manner, in line with the terms of our policies while considering the safety of our customers during events. We are now expediting the review of this claim which we received on June 9th," a Budget Direct spokesperson said.

When searching for the right travel insurance an expert urged Australians to read the fine print and make sure all related factors, such as age and pre-existing health illnesses of the traveller, are covered in the plan chosen.

"Comprehensive travel insurance policies differ [so] it's important to take note that not all policies offer the same cover, and some may restrict or exclude certain activities and benefits," 1Cover spokesperson, Natalie Smith told Yahoo News last week. "See if your chosen insurer offers an emergency assistance service. A 24-hour assistance hotline can be hugely beneficial when experiencing a crisis abroad."

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.