In an bid to promote a public ambulance service, the Health Ministry has made it illegal for private ambulances to retrieve victims in emergency situations - even if they are first on the scene
Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
A government ambulance pulls into Phnom Penh's Calmette Hospital in this file photo.
THE Ministry of Health has slapped a ban on private ambulances retrieving accident victims in a bid to promote the public ambulance service, which it said is better equipped.
Heng Taykry, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, told the Post Tuesday that private ambulances, although speedy, deliver inferior care compared with government ambulances.
"We have now banned private ambulances from collecting patients from accident scenes, as they do not have proper equipment," he said.
"We have noticed that at present, private ambulances arrive at the scene much faster but they do not have the skills to save lives."
According to the ministry, the Phnom Penh Municipality was cooperating with the Department of Health to enforce the new ban in Phnom Penh starting Wednesday.
"We have asked police to cooperate with us by arresting private ambulance services when they see them arrive at the scene of a traffic accident because it is now illegal," Heng Taykry added.
Heng Taykry said that better technology makes public ambulances as capable of treating patients.
"Before it was hard for us to get information about traffic accidents from police, but now we have the technology to access to all locations in Phnom Penh," he said.
Public and state ambulances are the same...they both think about money first
Minister of Health Mam Bunheng said at a monthly Phnom Penh Municipality meeting Monday that private ambulances had questionable ethics and lacked the ability to help badly hurt patients.
"Private ambulances haven't got the ability to save people, and they wear no uniforms, which is not ethical," she said.
"We will enhance our ambulance service from today, and we will strictly monitor private ambulance services."
Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema denied at the meeting that his police department had accepted bribes to inform private clinics of accidents.
He also said that some private clinics lack doctors on board their ambulances.
Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth admitted that his force occasionally informed private clinics about traffic accidents, but said that most cases involved witnesses or victims calling them directly.
"Our police do inform private clinics where traffic accidents are sometimes, but usually people at the scene call private clinics directly because they are faster."
No money, no help
Norn Liny, who required an ambulance after she suffered a serious head injury in a motorbike accident, said it saddened her that money dictated care.
"It is very hard for poor people because they do not take us into the clinic or hospital if we have no money," she said.
"They leave you outside like an animal, waiting for your relatives to come and then they talk about the money," she added.
But she said that the government should be prioritising care, rather than cracking down on private services.
"Private and state ambulances are the same because they both think about money first," she said.
I want all ambulance services to stop discriminating between the rich and poor," she added.
Heng Taykry said that the public ambulance service had never discriminated on the basis of wealth.
"We are doctors, we help all people," he said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen had ordered the Ministry of Health to monitor ambulances belonging to private clinics during the opening of a five-day
international health conference in October.
He said private ambulances lacked proper doctors and equipment, and acted like taxis when trying to get to traffic accidents.
"People are dying before they arrive at state hospitals," Hun Sen told the conference.