Local NGO Friends has expressed concern that the death of a 24-year-old man Wednesday morning was due to a lack of ambulances in Phnom Penh, though a city hospital official said Thursday the NGO could have used any vehicle to get the man to an emergency ward.
Kaul Lyna, childsafe hotline manager for Friends, said she received a call at 7:20 am from a resident of Chamkar Mon district reporting that a man, later reported to be a drug addict, was unconscious outside his Boeng Trabek commune home.
Friends staff at the scene called Phnom Penh’s municipal hospital at 7:30 and 7:40 am and were told that ambulances were unavailable because they were at an emergency simulation exercise involving Phnom Penh International Airport. The hospital said that it would send a minivan, Kaul Lyna said.
The minivan arrived two hours later but without medical supplies and the man died at the gate of the municipal hospital at 9:50 am, she said.
Loek Se, municipal hospital deputy director, said that his hospital had only one ambulance, and he wasn’t sure if it was at the airport. Any vehicle could have been used to transport the ailing man, he added. “For an emergency, any vehicle can transport: moto dup, three-wheeled motorbike,” he said.
Kerri Manika, Friends communications manager, said that tuk-tuks and taxis in the area were not willing to take the sick man.
In serious cases, Manika added, Friends has a policy against transporting patients in its own vehicles, and instead staff are instructed to wait for qualified medical personnel who can provide oxygen and other medical supplies.
Heng Taikry, Health Ministry secretary of state, said that there were ambulances available during the time of the exercise, but he declined to say how many. Emergency calls should have been made to a central office, which has ambulances on hand from Calmette, Preah Kossamak and the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospitals.
“There was no shortage of ambulances,” he said.