Reun Lao (left) and his wife, Yi Srey Ny, place incense on the tiny grave where their child, who was delivered stillborn last week, was buried in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
Opposition lawmakers will demand Health Minister Mam Bunheng answer questions in parliament about maltreatment of women in the Kingdom’s maternity wards, following a string of recent cases where mothers or their babies died because they could not afford to pay for care.
The move comes after more sordid details emerged about a case last week where staff at a Phnom Penh maternity ward allegedly refused to deliver a stillborn child because the pregnant woman and her husband were too poor to pay for a midwife.
Yi Srey Ny, 21, allegedly waited 16 hours for assistance at the National Maternal and Child Health Center before the 61-year-old mother of a nearby patient was forced to help deliver the dead baby.
Opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua said there had been at least three other similar cases in the past six months, in Pailin, Phnom Penh and Banteay Meanchey provinces, where poor mothers or their babies died because of malpractice, corruption or maltreatment.
“Some of it is total disregard to the poor and abuse and total violation of their human rights. Healthcare is about life, and the story that I got from the family last week is incredible,” she said.
She added that she had been told that in the incident last week, the desperate husband had been scolded and insulted by nurses when he went to beg them for help.
“They asked him to carry his wife, and the baby was still dangling, because its head was still caught inside. [The nurses] wrapped the baby in a krama and they [basically] threw it on the floor and said do what you want to do with it,” she said.
Sochua also said the hospital had threatened to sue the woman who helped deliver the child after she spoke to the media.
The hospital’s director, Dr Tong Rathavy, last week refused to comment and yesterday said the case was closed.
“The story is finished. So I don’t want to speak more about that. Sorry, I am busy,” she said, before hanging up.
Sochua is planning to submit a letter next week signed by at least 10 members of the SRP and Human Rights Party asking the health minister to answer questions about the latest and other cases.
“We are demanding accountability. The government must take measures against the heads of those hospitals and healthcare centres that do not fulfil their duties,” she said.
“In some hospitals this kind of malpractice is sanctioned. In some cases it’s not enough to expel staff who behave like this. It’s a criminal act. It must be prosecuted.”
Health Minister Mam Bunheng was not available to comment.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KIM YUTHANA