No ambulance fees for accident victims, health ministry emphasises

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An ambulance is seen driving along a street in Preah Sihanouk province. Heng Chivoan

The Ministry of Health has reiterated that capital and provincial authorities should be working to improve the emergency services offered via public hospitals, and that they cannot charge transport fees from victims of road traffic accidents.

Minister Mam Bun Heng renewed the call in a November 27 letter addressed to all governors.

“The ministry has instructed that ambulances which are transporting victims of traffic accidents will be free to the public, whether carrying survivors to the nearest public hospital, or deceased victims to their homes,” he said.

Bun Heng also instructed all health departments to cooperate with one another to improve the ambulance services available.

“All capital-provincial governors must instruct the directors of their respective health departments to improve the level of ambulance care,” read the letter.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Cambodia has largely succeeded in the fight against Covid-19, but that there remain weak links in the health system.

“The management of public health services, such as Covid-19, has been successful, but there have been issues with elective treatment, which means many Cambodians are still travelling abroad for treatment. There are also some issues with ambulance services, particularly when it comes to traffic accidents,” he added.

Poeu said some private ambulances appeared to be competing to pick up patients regardless of whether their hospitals or clinics had the medical equipment needed to support them.

“I was once involved in an accident and the ambulances were competing to take me for treatment at their respective clinics. This is a dangerous practice. Not only do they take risks while driving, but the survival of the patient does not appear to be at the top of their list of priorities,” he added.

The health ministry should set clear equipment standards that must be met before an ambulance may go on duty, he suggested.

Kampong Speu governor Vei Samnang said on November 28 that the authorities in his province had been largely following the new guidelines, even throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This will not be a problem for the Kampong Speu provincial health department. We were charging the cost of gasoline for the use of our ambulances, but we will be able to shoulder that expense. It’s not really a problem,” he said, adding that he was unaware of any cases of private ambulances seizing patients in the province, and hoped none would occur.