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Fee for flu test called too high

Fee for flu test called too high

091023_04
The son of Cambodia’s first swine flu victim, Chuon Vanthon, cries at his father’s funeral. At right, a receipt shows payments made by the family for swine flu tests.

THE family of a man who died from swine flu has accused hospital staff of charging a fee to test his relatives for the A(H1N1) virus – a procedure that officials say should be available for free.

Chuon Vanthon, 41, from Kandal province, died this month after contracting swine flu. Fearing they might have become infected themselves, his relatives asked to be tested at Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh, but were told it would cost them up to $200 each.

Hong Had said: “I wanted to get blood tests after my brother died because I’m worried about the health of my family, but the doctor said it would cost $200 each if they found the virus and $150 each if the results were clear. How can I afford this with a family of 10? I don’t know why we need to pay so much money.”

Dr Nima Asgari, a public health specialist at the World Health Organisation, said the test should be free.

He cautioned that people seeking the test could face in-patient fees, but only if the test results were positive and the patient required hospitalisation.

Sok Touch, director of the Communicable Disease Control Department, said the test should be free irrespective of the result.

He said only people showing severe symptoms – such as high fever – should get tested, “otherwise thousands of people will take the test, and the system will be blocked.”

Chheang Ra, director of Calmette Hospital, refused to comment Thursday.

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