Reun Lao (left) and his wife, Yi Srey Ny, place incense yesterday on the tiny grave where their child, who was delivered stillborn on Monday, was buried in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
A hospitalised woman was forced to deliver her stillborn child with no assistance other than from a fellow patient’s visiting mother after doctors and nurses refused to assist her because the couple was too poor to pay, the couple and a witness said yesterday.
Reun Lao, 25, said he and wife Yi Srey Ny, 21, who was seven months pregnant, went to the National Maternal and Child Health Center at 8am on Monday, and waited for 16 hours for a midwife to deliver their unborn child.
“We waited until midnight. My wife was in so much pain. She needed to deliver, but no midwife came,” Lao said.
He added that staff had told him it would cost 280,000 riel ($70) to pay for a hospital bed and midwife services, but he only had 20,000 riel.
“The hospital confirmed that my baby was already dead in my wife’s belly, but at least my baby’s body must be delivered from her mother.”
Lao said that eventually the 61-year-old mother of another patient in a nearby bed, 30-year-old Reau Mom, helped to deliver the child.
Reau Mom said her mother had witnessed the woman’s obvious labour pains.
“My mother is an old person, but she took pity on the woman who slept nearby my bed, who was in so much pain. So when no midwife came, my mother helped to deliver the child,” she said.
The Post several times yesterday tried to speak with the hospital’s director, Tong Rathav, but she refused to talk, saying she was too busy. In the local Deum Ampil newspaper, she was quoted denying the claims.
Staff at the hospital said they could not comment, but one nurse who did not wish to be named, said it’s not the first time they’ve faced such accusations.
“It’s a problem. Patients sometimes accuse our staff of neglect, but I don’t know why, because our doctors and nurses always take care of the families who come here.”
However, she refused to elaborate.
Lao, meanwhile, yesterday buried the body of his baby daughter at his rental property in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district.
“I am so sorry to see my baby die. Now my wife is in poor health. I buried my dead baby’s body near our house so her memory would stay in our minds,” he said.
He said that he and his wife had recently moved from Oddar Meanchey in the hopes of seeking jobs because they had been unable to find sufficient work in the border province.
Though hospitals are legally obligated to provide healthcare regardless of a patients’ ability to pay, several have come under fire in recent months after turning away impoverished patients. Several officials at the Ministry of Health were contacted yesterday but all refused to comment, referring questions back to the hospital director.