Dr Vilimkova managed a busy career as a Consultant Paediatrician with clinics in Crumlin Children’s Hospital, Mount Carmel and Roselawn Private Clinic in addition to her teaching / examiner post at RCSI.
In today’s environment a consultant is essentially a medical manager: not only was she 100% accountable for the patients in her care, managing the total care team (junior doctors and nurses), the parents involved, plus HR when required were essential to the effective operation of her role. Her days were hectic but she was happy with the variety and responsibility of her workload.
Suddenly in December 2012, following a standard checkup she received the news that she had breast cancer. With no family history of the disease and good general health, the diagnosis came completely out of the blue. When her doctor mentioned the term cancer she knew that something would need to be done immediately. A treatment plan was developed and within a few days of the news she had her first surgery. Her work schedule came to a complete standstill.
Dr Vilimkova went on to have four extensive surgeries over the next two years, each one resulting in a recovery time of up to three months. However it was the consequence of the treatments rather than the cancer itself that had the greatest impact on her future. Following a full mastectomy, procedures to relocate muscle & ligament tissue were required to balance her spine and aid movement. This resulted in a major loss of shoulder/arm mobility and significant pain. Driving, swimming, even typing on a keyboard became extremely difficult, requiring ongoing physiotherapy.
RETURNING TO WORK
Despite these challenges, Dr Vilimkova decided to look at returning to work in some capacity. With her mobility limitations it quickly became obvious that working in a normal setting would not be feasible so she looked to sourcing an additional resource to assist with appointments. Unfortunately there was no capacity for this, ruling out the possibility of managing cases despite her extensive expertise.
Another key issue arose relating to indemnity. Practicing in Ireland’s litigious environment would make her more vulnerable, if there was even a slight question over her arm/shoulder mobility, pain level or medication she would be a much greater target.
‘If parents see you with any weakness they will think What If? Patients expect 100%, there cannot be a shred of doubt’
A life changing diagnosis results in a multitude of implications so having a strong support structure in place is highly beneficial. For Dr Vilimkova, the financial implications did not cause additional stress due to the decision she had taken two years prior to arrange income protection cover. She had looked at a number of providers and was drawn to a non-profit model that invests back into the peer community provided my Omega Financial Management.
‘I didn’t need the contract, or to read the fine print, I knew it was all covered’ says Dr Vilimkova. Their client support ethos became paramount when the time came to file her claim.
SELF EMPLOYMENT – NO SOCIAL WELFARE ILLNESS COVER
Following her initial diagnosis, Dr Vilimkova was assured that it would be totally taken care of and received her letter of approval straight away. This was a ‘big relief’ not only due to the ease of the process; she had just discovered that she would not be entitled to state illness benefits. The Dept. of Social Protection had informed her that the self-employed are not covered in the same way as employed workers.
‘People assume that when they pay such a high level of tax that they will be covered in the same way as employees, this is not the case.’
Dr Vilimkova’s Income Protection payments provided her with a level of financial independence, which she describes as paramount to her state of mind. For someone who is greatly responsible in their professional and personal life, seeing weekly payments coming into her bank account helping to balance all of the costs going out reduces the stress of a highly challenging situation.
Furthermore, when she looked into returning to work, she contacted her insurance provider to let them know her intentions and was assured that no matter the outcome, she would be covered. When a return to work was ruled out, payments continued without question.
SECURITY FOR THE FUTURE
With treatments ongoing it is hard to formulate future plans but Dr Vilimkova’s outlook is very positive: ‘I’m not putting myself under pressure to be like before as it will never be the same again.’ She is focusing on her family and her new day-to-day life. Her condition has more or less ruled out the possibility of ever returning to work in her former capacity but her insurance provider has confirmed that she will be covered as long as she needs to be.
She advises her colleagues to think about their situation and what would happen if very suddenly, they couldn’t work. ‘Whether it’s your car, mortgage, supporting your family, practice and employees, we all have responsibilities to others’ she says.
‘As a doctor and a responsible person, you should be covered.’