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Tbong Khmum ‘doctor’ takes blame for patient's death

Unlicensed doctor Pich Nhor, who was arrested over the death of a patient, poses for a photo at a police station in Tbong Khmum province on Monday after he was detained by police. ECCC
Unlicensed doctor Pich Nhor, who was arrested over the death of a patient, poses for a photo at a police station in Tbong Khmum province on Monday after he was detained by police. ECCC

Tbong Khmum ‘doctor’ takes blame for patient's death

An elderly unlicensed doctor in Tbong Khmum province accused of unintentionally killing a patient is set to face court today – against the wishes of the deceased’s family.

Soung district police chief Chorn Sothun said Pich Nhor, 71, gave 41-year-old carpenter Em Phal three injections of hydrocortisone, vitamin B complex and camphor after the patient reported difficulty breathing. Phal’s condition worsened 30 minutes to an hour later and he died as the family rushed him to a different clinic.

Hydrocortisone is a steroid and B complex is a vitamin supplement, while camphor has been used to temporarily treat upper respiratory tract infections.

Nhor was arrested by police, though Phal’s sister and relatives have asked that he be released.

“They didn’t file a complaint, but we cannot release him,” said Sothun. “We arrested him and we will be sending him to provincial court.”

Soung commune chief Choung Pirum said Nhor had never received formal medical training but gained medical skills during the Pol Pot era. Most of the villagers go to him for treatment when they become ill.

Phal had begun to experience breathing difficulties after using an unknown polishing substance on furniture without wearing a mask, Pirum said.

Chorn Vanny, from the provincial forensic team at the department of health, said the cause of death hadn’t been determined.

Following an outbreak of HIV cases in Battambang’s Roka commune in 2014 thought to have been caused by an unlicensed doctor re-using dirty needles, the government launched a nationwide crackdown.

In 2015, 1,368 unlicensed medical providers were reportedly shuttered.

In a separate case in Kandal province, a licensed clinic is under investigation for possible malpractice following the death of a patient.

Chet Arm, 58, died on May 24, four days after undergoing an operation to treat peritonitis – inflammation of the lining of the abdomen – at Sokha-Panha Maternity clinic.

Kuoy Bunthoeurn, director of the provincial health department, said the patient had been sick before coming to the clinic. He said the clinic should have referred the patient to a hospital, although it’s not clear whether she could have been saved.

A committee within the Ministry of Health will make the final decision on whether to close the clinic, he said.

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