BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA
The Ministry of Health has issued a directive to curb the operations of certain ambulance services. Rogue operators are patrolling the streets and grabbing victims of traffic accidents to take them to private clinics. Whilst the victim may be incapacitated, they are nevertheless to be offered rational medical attention best fitting the scenario. Narrow and unseemly commercial considerations on the other hand should not be considered a priority in an emergency situation, according to the Royal Government of Cambodia.
Heng Taykry, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Health, said that the directive is to eliminate the uncontrolled practice of peeling traffic accident victims off the street and transporting them to private clinics that may be too far away or improperly equipped to really help a victim. This system depends on a network of tipsters in the employ of various private clinics. These people report the location of road accidents and ambulances are dispatched, irrespective of the possibility of there being a better equipped clinic nearer to the scene of the accident.
The Secretary of State said that the directive addresses the growing problem of ambulance pay schemes to tipsters or traffic policemen looking to make a fast buck out of someone else’s misfortune. Taykry noted that for the directive to be most effective, cooperation from the public would be necessary. He also noted that the directive was fully supported by the Prime Minister, whose sharp words on the topic illustrate his deep disdain for the practice.
“To ensure the safety of victims and protect them against being grabbed by opportunist ambulance crews, the Ministry has placed a ban on all private clinics sending their ambulances to accident sites in Phnom Penh,” he told the Cambodia Weekly by telephone.
He continued by saying that those private clinics that do violate the Ministry’s directive, will be shut down and their license revoked. He added that the order has been in effect as of December 1, 2008. As of now, traffic police and other related organizations are empowered to prevent private ambulances reaching the scene of an accident in the streets of Phnom Penh.
Chhorn Nareth, Chief of Calmette Hospital’s Ambulance Services, said that under previous conditions, a traffic accident was often the occasion of conflict. Private ambulance crews argued between themselves whilst the accident victim continued to suffer at their feet, the crew’s desire for profitability far outweighing the urge to alleviate pain and save life.
“I hope that after this order has been validated, we will see an end to this growing problem with the ambulance services. The level of chaos caused by a traffic accident in the city is already bad enough without ambulance drivers adding to it by squabbling over cash.” he said.
He noted in passing that Calmette Hospital has a fleet of 35 ambulances to cover Phnom Penh. He stated they are on call 24 hours a day and our readers can find contact information for them on page 10 in the Cambodia Weekly.
Tin Proseu, Chief of the Municipal Traffic Police Office with the Ministry of Interior, has expressed his full support for the Ministry of Health’s order.
“I appreciate both the sentiments and the practical considerations that have produced the ministry’s order. It provides a solid solution to an unacceptable situation and will help our official crews enhance their already selfless and impressive performance through more experience; and anything that can reduce the disruption of the accident site is to be welcomed.”
He continued, “To implement this order, traffic police are empowered to stop all private clinic ambulance crews approaching the scene.”
Khieu Sary, 45, a teacher at private school in Phnom Penh and reluctant consumer of ambulance services, welcomed the order, the memory of bitter experience adding conviction to his words.
Sary said that in March 2007, he was involved in a traffic accident at Psar Teuk Thla while he was returning to his house in Sangkat Cham Chao, Khan Dangkor. Incredibly, during the event, he stated there were three ambulances from different private clinics arguing over his broken body. One can only imagine his thoughts during the half hour it took for the argument to be settled and his arrival at a hospital bed in Sangkat Kbal Thnal, Khan Chamcarmon, some 15 kilometers from the scene of the accident.
This journey cost him 80,000 riel (about 10$) on top of the $100 bill he received for the medical care.
Ly Seng Chan, Director of Chan Reah Private Clinic in Phnom Penh. Established in 1996, he hinted that he used to have two ambulances to deal with road traffic accidents. However, all his ambulance services have been suspended since the order was given earlier this month. He said that the directive had naturally affected his daily business and that of his competitors in Phnom Penh.
He said, “However, we have no choice and cannot oppose it. Thus, we have to obey it and hopefully develop our ambulance service systems so as to provide a truly complementary service for accident victims.”
He added according to his records, from1996 to November 2008, his Chan Reah clinic had received an average of 20 traffic accident victims per day. ////