Government Backtracks on Private Clinic Crackdown

After revoking the operating license of a large private medical clinic in Phnom Penh on Monday following the sudden death of a man with back pain, the Ministry of Health on Tuesday appeared to change its mind, instead opening an investigation that could see the clinic reopened.

“It is possible that if the investigation shows the problem is not related to technique…they can apply for a new license,” Sok Srun, director of the ministry’s hospital services department, said on Tuesday of the Khim Rany Clinic and Maternity in Tuol Kok district’s Boeng Kak I commune.

Lim Taokong, 28, went to the clinic on Sunday morning to get treatment for lower back pain and began having trouble breathing minutes after receiving small injections of a common painkiller and an anti-inflammatory drug, according to the clinic’s owner, Khim Rany, who administered the shots.

He died while being rushed to Calmette Hospital. Lim Taokong’s family said on Monday that they believed the injections caused his death. Dr. Rany, however, said her treatment was appropriate and that the man died of a heart attack.

In its statement forcing the closure of the clinic, the Health Ministry said Lim Taokong’s death was only the latest of “many problems” caused by the clinic, which it said had “never obeyed its contract…or obeyed the advice of the Ministry of Health.”

Dr. Srun of the hospital department said the investigation into the clinic would have little to do with the cause of the death that led to its closure, as there were no facilities in the country to conduct an autopsy, and therefore the body would not be inspected.

Instead, he said the committee would inspect paperwork, medical licenses and the clinic’s facilities, adding that Dr. Rany would also be interviewed about Lim Taokong’s treatment.

Sok Sokhun, director of the Phnom Penh municipal health department, said the clinic, which has been open since 2000 and previously operated under the name Tuol Kok Clinic, had long ignored the ministry’s orders.

“The Ministry of Health has tried to limit the price of treatment at clinics, but this clinic took the opportunity to charge its patients high prices,” Mr. Sokhun said, adding that the clinic also ignored a ministry order in 2008 for private clinics’ ambulances to cease operation.

In September, nearly seven years after the order, police said they were questioning Dr. Rany over a hit-and-run accident involving one of her ambulances, in which three people were killed.

Mr. Sokhun said that if the clinic was allowed to reopen, it would be placed under strict supervision.

“If we shut down the clinic for a long time without letting them do business, it will affect their livelihood,” he said, adding that further offenses could see the clinic’s owner sent to court.

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