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‘Extortion’ as dengue care lands father with $5K bill

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Rin Sarom and Dr Ham Long agree to a $2,000 settlement. Photo supplied

‘Extortion’ as dengue care lands father with $5K bill

The Ministry of Health issued a warning letter against a private clinic in Phnom Penh that treated two dengue fever patients for nine days and charged over $5,200 for its services – an amount labelled by netizens as “extortion”.

The ministry noted that the practice of private clinics treating patients beyond 24 hours defies a directive dated March 29 last year.

Private health centres are not allowed to provide medical care to a patient for more than 24 hours, the ministry ordered. Should patients require further treatment, they must be referred to state-run medical facilities.

“Dr Ham Long must abide by the ministry’s letter with high responsibility and should not allow such instances to happen again, or else the ministry will close the [clinic] and Dr Ham Long will bear the legal consequences,” read the letter signed by Or Vandine, secretary of state at the ministry.

In the warning letter, the ministry said Dr Long treated two young patients suffering from dengue fever from June 5-14.

The warning came after a video clip showing a whopping $5,200 on the young patients’ medical bills was widely shared on Facebook, prompting backlash from social media users who deemed the practice “extortion”.

In the video clip, 40-year-old Rin Sarom, the father, was seen saying he could not afford to pay the total amount charged for his children’s medical treatment and that Dr Long had justified the bill by claiming the patients needed high-quality medicine in order to save their lives.

Speaking to The Post on Monday, Sarom said his daughter Rin Ryna, 15, and son Rin Sotheara, 11, had had a fever for three days prior to being admitted to Dr Long’s clinic.

The family lives in Prey Veng province’s Kamchay Mear district.

“[Dr] Long diagnosed my children with dengue fever and said that recovery would take several days. Before deciding on treatment, I asked other patients about the cost of care there. They told me the price was acceptable, with it only being around $1,000 per patient.

“However, after nine days, I was given an invoice with a total amount of $5,200,” he said.

After seeing the invoice, he continued, he and his wife begged Dr Long to adjust the bill to $3,500. Ham Long refused and only gave them a $100 discount. He even blamed them for breaking their promise.

Sarom acknowledged that he and his wife had told Dr Long to treat their children at all cost, so when they were presented the invoice and requested for discount, Ham Long claimed that the two had broken their promise.

He said he was nevertheless unable to pay the bill for it cost his family an arm and a leg, therefore, he took to Facebook.

Acknowledging the matter, officials from the Health Ministry and municipal health department came to the clinic to intervene.

Sarom told them that he only had $2,500 and asked Dr Long to accept $2,000 with the remaining $500 he said was for food and transport back to Prey Veng. Dr Long eventually accepted Sarom’s offer.

“The officials made me and Dr Long sign and thumbprint a contract on the $2,000 agreement. After that, there was no complaint anymore,” Sarom said, noting that his family appreciated the officials’ intervention.

He said he also appreciated Dr Long for helping his children and reducing the cost.

Dr Long declined to comment on Monday.

Similarly, the director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Health Department, Ngy Mean Heng, called on private clinics to stop treating patients with dengue fever, malaria and rabies.

“Please send the patients to state-run hospitals instead,” Mean Heng said.

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