Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng instructed all capital-provincial governors to tighten law enforcement and oversight of professional ethics of private clinics and hospitals in their localities.

This came after the ministry penalised a midwife at Deum Angkrong Clinic and Maternity in Kampong Speu province’s Kong Pisey district by suspending her licence for two years following a recent incident involving patient care.

"The ministry observes that some health facilities have not properly complied with the law on the management of health professionals and the law on the management of private professionals in the medical services sector and professional ethics in providing health services to patients in private health facilities," he said in a letter addressed to the governors on November 30.

Regarding the latest case of professional misconduct at the Kampong Speu clinic, the ministry said officials had carried out a thorough investigation before taking action. The case involved a woman who had a stillbirth abortion, which caused serious harm to her.

They determined that the errors were made by the midwife at the clinic because she did not receive necessary training on abortion. The midwife was punished with suspension of her professional licence for two years.

"The ministry deeply regrets the incident wherein an 18-week-old stillbirth abortion by a mother at Deum Angkrong Clinic and Maternity was done improperly as the clinic allowed an untrained midwife to carry out the operation, which is contrary to the ministry's technical guidelines, in particular those from the National Maternal and Child Health Centre," the ministry said in the letter.

The ministry has also closed the clinic while it continues to investigate the incident, noting that it will be held accountable before the law if found to be negligent in its professional conduct.

The ministry stated that the ministry’s Midwifery Professional Committee conducted the investigation into the midwife who performed the abortion.

"The Midwifery Committee, under its jurisdiction, has thoroughly researched and examined the midwifery techniques and imposed disciplinary action on Ung Thearin by temporarily suspending her professional midwifery licence for two years in accordance with Article 15 of the Law on the Management of Health Professionals," the ministry said.

The patient's husband recalled that he took his wife to get an echocardiogram check-up at the clinic to find out if she was pregnant with a boy or a girl, only to learn that the fetus had no heartbeat. Then the clinic referred the pair to another hospital to get a second echocardiogram to verify this, and they did with the same result.

The man then brought his wife back to the Deum Angkrong clinic for an abortion because a doctor there claimed that the clinic was equipped to perform the operation and had a team of experts to carry it out.

Eleven days after the procedure, he said his wife was "convulsing" in pain and the clinic performed another operation to clean out the remnants from the aborted foetus that were still present, during which she bled heavily. The clinic then suggested that she go for treatment at a hospital in Phnom Penh, and she is now recovering at Calmette Hospital after receiving life-saving treatment.