Hospital Dispute May Lead to Surgeon’s Dismissal

A months-old dispute between the acting director of a Pailin mun­ic­ipal hospital and members of his staff may now lead to the removal of one of the hospital’s surgeons, officials said Tuesday.

An inspector from the Ministry of Health visited the Pailin Munici­pal Referral Hospital Tuesday to in­vesti­gate the dispute before a final de­cision is made on whether to fire sur­geon Khe Sokhom.

In July, staff at the hospital sought the resignation of acting director Seak Rattanak, accusing him of pocketing hospital funds and failing to seek badly needed fi­nan­cial assistance to improve services.

The staffers, led by Khe Sok­hom, appealed to Health Minister Nuth Sokhom for a resolution to the dispute and for sanctions against Seak Rattanak. At that time, Nuth Sokhom recommended that the dispute be handled at the local level.

Last month, Pailin Municipal Gov­­er­nor Y Chhean approved an Aug 9 letter from the Pailin Health Office requesting the re­moval of Khe Sokhom, officials con­firmed.

Nuth Sokhom said that he had seen the removal request but need­ed more time to review the mat­ter. “In principle, we still want to resolve the dispute peacefully, and get all par­ties of the dispute to continue work­ing in a difficult place like Pai­lin,” he said.

Khe Sokhom said that if he is re­­moved it would be a great injustice. “I only protested irregularities for the good [of the hospital],” he said, add­ing that 27 staff mem­bers, about half the hospital’s employees, have condemned any plans to re­move him.

In July, Seak Rattanak denied the al­legations made by his staff, and ac­cused Khe Sokhom of acting unprofessionally. Seak Rat­tanak said Tuesday that it was necessary to transfer Khe Sok­hom from Pai­lin because the dispute was impeding health services.

Y Chhean could not be reach­ed for comment. Deputy Gover­nor Ieng Vuth confirmed the governor’s endorsement of the surgeon’s re­moval but re­fused to ela­b­orate further.

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