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Clinic prices facing scrutiny

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An ambulance parked at Sok Soursdey Policlinic yesterday in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district.

Municipal health officials plan to send a letter to Health Minister Mam Bunheng this week requesting that the ministry order private clinics in the capital to display treatment prices   in order to prevent patients from being extorted.

Sok Sokun, director of the municipal health department, said yesterday that so far this year he had received several complaints from people claiming that private clinics had overcharged them for treatment.

Sok Sokun added that a doctor at one private clinic in Phnom Penh had charged more than US$1,000 to operate on appendicitis, a procedure which should have been priced at about $150 to $200.

“Private clinics may have different price tables for treatment according to their equipment use and staff service, but my inspection group will go to observe [clinics] if there are complaints from people,” Sok Sokun said.

He added that displaying treatment prices at private clinics, as state health services did, would give people better access to private healthcare.

There are now about 60 clinics and eight state hospitals operating in the capital.

“It is good for private clinics to have price tables for treatment services because some clinics do not charge the same [amounts],” Health Minister Mam Bunheng said yesterday.

He added that he would wait for Sok Sokun’s letter before he considered issuing an order.

In Varavuth, chief of Sok Soursdey Policlinic in Meanchey district, yesterday welcomed the proposal that private clinics display their prices.

“I have nothing against it because it is the municipality’s policy,” he said. “Creating a price table allows customers to know about the clinics’ service charges [so they can]  avoid losing money.”

He added that his clinic had never employed doctors who extorted money from patients.

“My clinic is always gentle with patients when they lack money. I tell all staff to save the patient first, never to ask about money first,” he said.

Phnom Penh resident Kim Sok, 55, said yesterday that his family had switched from attending private clinics to state hospitals after he claimed he was overcharged for treatment at a private clinic following a traffic accident.

“The doctor gave my ankle wound 10 stitches and bandaged my head and ankle and injected me [with medicine], and he charged me $250 because he had stayed at the clinic for about two hours,” Kim Sok said.

He asked that the Ministry of Health take action to prevent private clinics from overcharging patients.

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