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Listening to Husband and Wife Who Live with AIDS in Siem Reap,Talking about Difficulties to Receive Life Extending Drugs

By: The Mirror Posted: December-28-2009 in
The Mirror

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 644

“Siem Reap: A Husband and wife who live among more than 3,000 people who are also living with AIDS and are receiving life extending drugs in Siem Reap and in neighboring provinces, talked about their difficulties to receive life extending drugs at the Siem Reap referral hospital. Below is what they said:

1. Services Provided Depend on Salaries
“I and my wife received life extending drugs for free through the [French NGO] Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) since 2004 until mid 2008. After receiving these life extending drugs, I seemed to have gained hope to continue living, as I and my wife were cared for and we were offered non-discriminating services free of charge.

“But it is disappointing that after MSF had finished their term, the situation changed, as we continued to receive drugs and services from the Siem Reap referral hospital. More than 3,000 people have AIDS, including I and my wife, and we receive now services from state doctors.

“But in actual fact, we are not offered the same intensive services like before, starting from the point submitting the Patient’s Books to get queuing numbers to receive health counseling and blood examinations, for checking and for observations. These activities are offered with discrimination by the hospital’s service providers in a rude attitude.

“If we compare the wide gap between the present services to those provided by MSF, the present personnel does not speak responsibly, like saying, ‘State medics who earn Riel 100,000 to Riel 200,000 [approx. US$24 to 48] as their salaries, they provide services based on it. It is not like that organization’s medics who earn US$400 to US$500.’

2. A Money Number Is Quicker than a Queuing Number
“Every time I and my wife are to receive life extending drugs, we have to arrive at the hospital at 5:30 a.m. to submit our Patient’s Books in exchange for queuing numbers. I noticed that every time, even though we try to arrive early, we can hardly receive low queuing numbers to meet our doctors soon. We have to pass by an informal checkpoint (a group of people in charge of checking our books for the appointment dates). If I am not mistaken, they are not members of the staff of the state hospital. The purpose of this group is to make us feel bored if we have to wait for a long time, in order to extort money. This is really true, because once they talked to me, directly asking me and my wife to give them Riel 10,000 [approx. US$2.40] to Riel 20,000, so that they will arrange for us to see the doctors soon, without following the sequence of the queuing numbers. Riel 10,000 is not much for the rich. But as it is known, we are people living with AIDS, before we could receive free life extending drugs, we had sold our property to have money for medical treatment, like for buying medicines from private hospitals, and we consulted also traditional medicine men. Finally, we decided to come to receive services from the state hospital, because we have almost no more money left, and we do not even have enough money to buy our daily food. How can we have money to pay for that group (that offers to disregard the queuing numbers)?

3.Having Money in a Vessel or Having a Blood Vessel
“When the date for a blood test came, I and my wife entered the room of a female doctor (short, short hair, and broad hips). Later on I knew she is Dr. Phary. Arriving in the room, I greeted and chatted with her for a short while, but after she checked my book, she did not start to do her work. She was busy talking on the phone with other persons. Then she went out and came in repeatedly, keeping me and my wife waiting for a long time in her room. When she came into the room again, other patients followed her to meet her. (Looking at their appearance and jewelry) I thought they are her important clients. They handed their books to the doctor, and I saw they had put Riel 20,000 in it. Because she saw the money, Dr. Phary became friendly towards them and started taking their blood, and they did not need to wait long like me. After that she told her clients, ‘Next time before you come, phone me first, and you do not need to take a queuing number…’ (people having money are welcome, I thought). Because we had been waiting already for a long time, I asked the doctor to now take my blood test. I said, ‘Is it because I do not have money though I came first? Why do you let me wait this way?’ She stared at me as if I were her enemy and started to take my wife’s blood first. For my turn, I did not expect she would mistreat me as a revenge, by injecting the needle many times, missing the blood vessel. Then I realized: having no money is having no blood vessel!

4. Examinations at the Private Parts
For such examinations, I just want to ask the hospital or the AIDS authorities to offer training also to women as counselors, so that female patients would not have to be examined by male counselors. When women need health examinations about AIDS, they have to meet male doctors in charge of women’s diseases. If there were female doctors in charge of women’s diseases, they would have different ethics as medics. But what this group said is immoral and improper for Khmer women.

“All in all, regarding the four points mentioned above, I want the provision of life extending drugs to be strengthened, so that it is smooth and not discriminating, and patients do not have to feel bored every time they go to receive drugs.

“I believe that they make it difficult for us to receive services from state hospitals, so as to create opportunities to do their private businesses (by directly contacting doctors, and using the informal group checking appointments).

“Above is a sad account of people living with AIDS, and the authorities, at all levels, working with AIDS patients, should consider this.

“Regarding the above account, after journalists of Rasmei Kampuchea had received the letter from a representative of people having AIDS, at 10:00 a.m. on 25 December 2009, we contacted the head of the Siem Reap referral hospital, Mr. Pen Phalkun, for a comment, and he responded that this case will have its effect for people having AIDS, and he emphasized that he would question those doctors before noon of 25 December 2009, before he would come to Phnom Penh on the same day.

“Mr. Pen Phalkun stressed that doctors are not allowed to extort money from people living with AIDS, or to take life extending drugs home. He will investigate this case further. He asked back, ‘Do you know the names of these doctors?’ If he knew names, he would take action immediately.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5083, 26.12.2009

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 644 - Saturday, 26.12.2009
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror is a daily comprehensive summary and translation of the major Khmer language press - More about The Mirror

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