The Ministry of Health ordered the closure of a large private medical clinic in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district on Monday, one day after the sudden death of a man who received treatment there, according to a government statement and the man’s wife.
The clinic, Khim Rany Clinic and Maternity in Boeng Kak I commune, was ordered to shut down because it “had caused many problems in the past and never obeyed its contract to open the clinic or obeyed the advice of the Ministry of Health,” according to a statement signed on Monday by Health Minister Mam Bunheng.
The statement did not elaborate on how the clinic had erred in the past or why it was being shut down. However, the move came amid widespread local media coverage of the death of a 28-year-old patient, Lim Taokong, who was rushed to Calmette Hospital when he became short of breath after being given an injection for back pain at the clinic.
The man’s wife, Sok Rath Mony, said he went to the clinic with lower back pain and a headache on Sunday and was given an injection by a doctor there. About 20 minutes later he began sweating profusely and struggling to breathe and was sent in an ambulance to Calmette Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Ms. Rath Mony said that her husband had been in good health and had only started experiencing back pain the night before he died. She said she had complained to police after his death, arguing that, at the very least, the clinic should not have injected her husband without receiving his explicit permission or that of a family member. Instead, she said, doctors asked one of her husband’s acquaintances, who had driven him to the clinic, to fingerprint a consent form.
“They asked that man to give a fingerprint to allow the hospital to give the injection. It must be me or a relative that gives the fingerprint,” Ms. Rath Mony said.
Dr. Khim Rany, the clinic’s owner, defended her treatment of Lim Taokong, saying she had personally injected him with 300 mg of acetaminophen, a common painkiller, and 5 mg of dexamethasone, a steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
According to Dr. Rany, Lam Taokong died of a heart attack and must have been unaware that he had a heart condition. She denied the possibility that he had experienced an allergic reaction to either of the medications she injected and said she had acted appropriately after he developed breathing problems.
“The patient ran to ask me for help,” she said. “I gave him medical care…to reduce his pain before forwarding him to Calmette Hospital.”
Dr. Rany said she had no idea why the Health Ministry had shut down her clinic and claimed she had never been reprimanded by the government in the past. However, police said in September that they were questioning her over a fatal hit-and-run accident involving one of the clinic’s ambulances.
Ministry of Health spokesman Ly Sovann said he was not aware of the order to close down the clinic, referring questions to local health officials, who could not be reached.
Chris Grundmann, country director for the University Research Co., which implements programs to improve health care services, said he hoped the swift closure of Khim Rany would send a powerful message to other private clinics to improve their standard of care.
“It’s a good message because if a person that is really sick comes into your clinic and you don’t have the skills to fix them or treat them, get them to Calmette faster,” he said. “Don’t take the two hours to try to get $100 or $250 out of their pocket before you do that.”