Clinic Closes Surgery Wing Amid Scandal

A private Phnom Penh medical clinic facing multiple complaints, including the death of a man with severe head injuries that went untreated for a week before he was transferred to a public hospital, closed its surgery section Nov 11, said the clinic’s director Dr Taing Vengseng.

But the rest of Meanchey district’s Chantrea Hospital Poly Cli­nic’s sections, including an ambulance service, re­main open. “We don’t have rich pa­­tients,” Taing Vengseng said. “[Mostly] moto drivers, factory work­ers, sex workers and beer girls.” He said he hopes the sur­­gery section will reopen within a week.

Health Minister Nuth Sokhom said the closure was more permanent. “We do this for the good of pu­­blic health care and safety.”

A ministry official said Chantrea wrongly used private ambulances, intended only for transportation from clinics to hospitals and homes, to pick up injured victims from road accidents. Only Emer­gency Medical Aid Service vehicles, known as SAMU, are au­thor­ized to handle emergency situations on the scene, the official said. The French Red Cross started the program and trained per­son­­nel be­fore handing it over to the Ministry of Health, the official added.

Taing Vengseng acknowledged three complaints: two from Sihanouk Hospital and one from Preah Kossomak Hospital, all involving traffic accidents. One case involved a patient with a head injury who was treated and stayed a week at the clinic before going to Sihanouk Hos­pital for an operation. He said the patient died Aug 1 after three days at the hospital.

Another involved a man whose leg was broken in multiple places. Taing Vengseng said the man re­fused treatment due to cost and asked to be transported to Preah Kos­somak Hospital. Chantrea doctors sewed the man’s leg shut for transportation, he said, which prompt­ed complaints that it exacerbated the injuries and de­layed recovery. He said three doctors had already been fired, but he de­clined to specify who or why.

(additional reporting by Nhem Chea Bunly)

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