Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has approved the decision to impose the first degree of disciplinary punishment against the director and medical staff of a commune health centre in Preah Sihanouk province for “mistakes and professional misconduct” relating to the care of a woman going into labour.

The disciplinary measure was taken against the director and his six medical staff members – none of whom was identified – in relation to a case in which a pregnant woman sought assistance at Keo Phos Health Centre in Stung Hav district’s Keo Phos commune to deliver her baby, only to discover that there was no medical worker on standby.

The incident, happening a day after the April 14-16 Khmer New Year, ended with the woman delivering her baby in front of the centre.

Provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun on April 18 called a meeting attended by the district governor, heads of relevant departments and units, commune chief, the woman’s family and the accused.

A report from local authorities stated that at 6:30am on April 17, a pregnant resident who felt contractions came to seek delivery services at the health centre. She waited for 90 minutes and ended up delivering her baby at 8am with the help of a traditional midwife outside the centre.

Both mother and baby were said to be in good health, with local authorities following up on the woman’s postpartum care.

A report from the centre noted that the woman had arrived during a daily shift change. However, in this instance, medical staff working the night shift had “left early”, while those scheduled for the next shift were late, leading to an absence of staff.

Provincial administration spokesman Kheang Phearom told The Post on April 19 that the medical staff at the health centre had gone to the woman’s house to apologise directly to her and her family for their “mistakes”.

“Having listened to reports from all sides, the governor [Chamroeun] concluded that the standby medical staff at Keo Phos Health Centre had not followed health ministry’s guidelines correctly… therefore, the fault from lack of punctuality will result in disciplinary punishment,” he said.

“The governor also instructed the director of the provincial health department to draw on this experience to call for a dissemination meeting involving other health centres regarding this case,” he added. “We could not let one of our health centres or hospitals undermine the trust of [the public] in the provision of public health services.”

Phearom said that, with the approval of the health minister, governor Chamroeun imposed the first-degree disciplinary punishment of blame on the health centre director and the six medical staff.

The governor was said to have also instructed the health center director and medical staff to “improve their behaviour” to “compensate for their mistakes”, warning that failure to comply would lead to the provincial administration taking “further action” against the centre, Phearom said.

He added that the woman’s family had attended the meeting and accepted Chamroeun’s decision, and thanked the provincial leaders for “taking into consideration the health of residents”.

The woman also thanked the commune chief for “coordinating and supplying” food for residents “in times of hardship”, and had asked his permission to be able to name her son after him.

“At present, the woman and her baby boy are healthy. She asked to recuperate at home,” Phearom said.

According to a sub-decree issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2016 on the management of civil servants and contract officials, punishment for not fulfilling contracted time at work consists of four levels. They are blame, blame with a charge in official documentation, demotion, and the most severe, dismissal.