Hospital Official to Be Removed After Boy Dies From Snakebite

A district hospital official in Banteay Meanchey province will be removed from his post after a 7-year-old boy died on Thursday because he was allegedly refused treatment for a venomous snakebite.

Moeurn Meth was bitten on his finger by a cobra while playing and was rushed to Thma Puok district referral hospital, where his parents say hospital staff refused him anti-venom, saying the medicine was reserved for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s student volunteers who were measuring land in the area.

Hospital officials have denied the allegation that they were keeping the medicine specifically for the student volunteers’ use.

The hospital’s director, Kim Samol, said the boy had been in such a critical condition that staff had decided to refer him to the provincial referral hospital—a distance of some 40 km away—instead of provide him with the life-saving anti-venom.

Keo Sophaktra, director of the provincial health department, said that Dr. Samol will be dismissed from his position for that decision, but would be given another placement elsewhere.

“We will change his position as a punishment. We have not removed him yet but we plan to remove him to another position,” he said, declining to elaborate further.

Dr. Samol could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Thuy Samoeurn, the boy’s father, said he has filed a complaint with Banteay Chhmar commune police because he wants the hospital staff who were responsible brought to court.

“They should have acted properly and ethically and provided treatment to all people. They were supposed to save my son,” Mr. Samoeurn said. “The doctors should be imprisoned and pay the price for my son’s life. He was my only child.”

Vann Tha, commune police chief, confirmed he received the complaint yesterday morning.

“The parents are very upset. They filed a complaint because they want to find justice for their son,” Mr. Tha said. “They are also human beings and it is not fair to them.”

Suom Chankea, Adhoc provincial coordinator, said an investigation should be launched into the staff’s alleged refusal to treat the boy.

“The Ministry of Health needs to look more deeply into the case,” Mr. Chankea said. “They need to look at his ethics for intentionally deciding not to provide treatment to the child.”

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