The Ministry of Health in November issued a ban on the
“anarchic grabbing” of victims of traffic accidents, following the development
of a system where witnesses earn money for calling private clinics that may be
too far away to really help a victim.
The majority have abided the directive, which was followed
by sharp words for ambulance operators from Prime Minsiter Hun Sen, but not
“For the safety of victims and avoiding the anarchic
activities of grabbing customers, the ministry banned private clinics from
sending their ambulances to take victims of accidents,” said Heng Taykry,
secretary of state for the Ministry of Health. “The ministry will annul the licenses
and shut down the clinics of those who violate this directive. And traffic
police and concerned authorities are empowered to stop the ambulances.”
The directive is meant to address the growing problem of
ambulance pay schemes to tipsters or traffic police, but Chhorn Nareth, chief
of Calmette Hospital’s ambulance operation—the official operation of
Cambodia—said the ban requires the cooperation of the public.
“The order has been effective,” he said. “There are only one
or two private clinics that continue to send their ambulances.”
It remains to be seen whether the directive will mitigate
some of the chaos at accident scenes.
Adding to the problem is that the official 119 number, which
connects to Calmette, is often abused.
“Hello, is this the number for your ambulance?” a young man
asks a 119 operator.
“Yes, this is the emergency line,” she says.
“One day, when I am sick, I will call you,” the youth says,
“Hello, darling,” says an apparently inebriated caller.
“Talk to me again. I want to listen to you. Do you understand me? I call you every
Uvicheka Linda, a Calmette emergency line operator, said she
has become used to conversations like these, which make up 80 percent of her incoming calls.
“They cursed me every day, old or young,” she said. “I think
that if we could identify their number, it would be better, because our number
is very important for people who are in danger.”