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Man healed, held against will

Term Hun lies in a hospital bed on Monday while his wife watches over him at Polyclinic Hong En, nearly a month after having emergency surgery on his stomach in Phnom Penh.
Term Hun lies in a hospital bed on Monday while his wife watches over him at Polyclinic Hong En, nearly a month after having emergency surgery on his stomach in Phnom Penh. Koam Chanrasmey

Man healed, held against will

Today, a month to the day after his stomach ruptured, Term Hun, 49, remains hospitalised. He was operated on and has long since healed. But without the money to pay for his treatment, the clinic refuses to let him go.

“If I want to [take him from] the hospital, I have to pay $2,000,” his wife, Phon Phy said on Monday, as she sat beside her bandaged husband, wiping tears from her eyes. “I haven’t seen that much money in my life.”

After receiving emergency surgery at Polyclinic Hong En in Phnom Penh for a torn stomach, Hun was told that Great Field (Cambodia) International Ltd, the Kampong Speu province sugarcane factory at which Hun and his wife live and work, had not paid his bill in full and that he could not leave until the remaining $2,000 was paid.

Before an on-site nurse at Great Field rushed Hun to Hong En for treatment, Hun told her and a factory manager that he did not have money to cover medical treatment, Hun said yesterday.

A Great Field manager assured him that the company would cover the hospital bill, he said.

“I told them that I don’t have money,” Hun said. “They said, ‘Just go, you don’t have to worry about that, we’ll take care of it.’”

The manager provided an $800 down payment before doctors operated on Hun, hospital director Chen Xin-hua said. The hospital dropped the price from $5,000, saying it will accept $2,000, but has not received the money still owed.

“I keep [Hun], because I want to keep pressure on the factory so they will pay us,” Chen said.

A Great Field official who declined to give her name yesterday said she did not know if any Great Field representative had agreed to pay Hun’s medical bills. Since his illness is not work-related, the factory is not responsible for his medical care, she said. Great Field is currently in talks with the National Social Security Fund to see if they can provide any funding, she added.

The factory is under no legal obligation to pay the bill, aside from an alleged verbal contract, which is impossible to prove, said Huon Chundy, a program manager with the Community Legal Education Center. However, he said, the hospital has no legal authority to detain Hun.

“If they have any problem with payment, the hospital can file a claim to the court,” Chundy said yesterday. “They cannot detain any person for failure to pay the bill.”

But Chen is not concerned with the legality of Hun’s detention, he said. In the past, Polyclinic Hong En has held people who couldn’t pay their bill, he said, adding that some have escaped.

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