NGO officials reveal daunting realities for poor women in Pursat whose
inability to pay medical fees is a matter of life and death
WOMEN and NGO officials raised grievances and alarming statistics on women's health and domestic violence at a conference on Wednesday - the United Nation's Human Rights Day - organised by the Alliance Association of Rural Restoration (AARR) and Rural Friends for Community Development (RFCD).
"They don't care about me, and they think I'm not important if I don't have money to pay them," said a teary-eyed Ngeam Chem, 38, whose child died during birth at her local hospital.
"My child would not have died if they had cared less about the money."
My child would not have died if they had cared less about the money.
Women in rural areas face daunting problems in securing health care, and their children often die due to curable problems that are left untreated because they can't afford the fee, RFCD Executive Director Keo Phal told the audience at a conference titled "For Women's Health and Against Domestic Violence".
Nealy half of the 400 women from the eight communities the NGO monitored did not receive medical treatment on time because of their inability to pay or because of staff shortages, he said.
"The doctors don't care about the suffering of patients, and they ask for money before they will give treatment," he said.
Many people had lost faith in hospitals and had gone back to using traditional Khmer medicine, he added.
Ngea Touch, 40, said his wife died at a hospital in Pursat because the doctors treated her carelessly.
"My wife was losing blood after giving birth, so I tried to ask for help from the doctors," he said.
"But they said it wasn't serious and just gave her a bottle of serum.
"They didn't care what happened to her because we are very poor and we don't have any money for them."
He said he used to take his wife to traditional Khmer doctors to give birth and that she never had any problem there.
"I took her to the hospital because I thought she will be safer there, but I was wrong."
We'll look into it
Pa La In, deputy chief of the Pursat health department, said that staff were not allowed to take money from patients, but acknowledged that some did.
"I will discuss the problem with my department, and we will change the attitudes of the doctors who behave like this," she said.
She said she aimed to increase the number of midwives from one to three at all 32 health centres in Pursat province.
Chut Sophany, the Pursat deputy governor, said she would remind the health department to treat all patients equally and that doctors should only take "suitable amounts" from the poor.
"I am happy to see that all these women dare to raise their problems with us, and I hope doctors will change their habits and stop discriminating against the poor."