I was really perturbed and surprised by the following story told to me by Steve Goodman a fellow Ex-Pat living here in Cambodia about troubles he has been experiencing with Sihanouk Hospital Center of Hope (SHCH)
Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE is an important hospital in Cambodia and does a lot of very good work helping poor, needy and underprivileged people, but they also have some very serious problems, some of which they do not seem to be addressing in a professional constructive and positive manner.
I have a destitute Cambodian friend that I have provided daily care and support to for over 4 years.
Unfortunately my friend (a patient for many years at SHCH) and I have had some terrible, shocking and extremely upsetting experiences with SHCH over the past few years: suffice it to say these are things that any sane person would complain about because they directly or indirectly impacted my friend's health and outlook in a clearly negative and on numerous occasions in a decidedly mean-spirited way.
When I have voiced my very serious, reasonable and legitimate complaints, both orally and in writing, my complaints have absolutely NOT at all been met with the care, compassion and respect that the hospital prominently advertises. Actually they (SHCH) have, on a number of occasions, simply ignored me entirely. In fact I have been told repeatedly on numerous occasions by Dr. Gerlinda Lucas that - on the subject of my complaints –"it doesn't help". This attitude of not being able to do anything about problems that are pointed out is one that I have found, in my dealings with the hospital, to be pervasive and persistent over a period of years, though - to be completely fair - certaianly there have been occassions where my input was taken graciously and acted on in a constructive and appropriate manner.
Once a doctor at the hospital - in response to me having clearly and calmly suggesting a simple solution to a serious training deficiency at SHCH that he himself identified – said to me as he laughed “never mind, that was all in the past and there is nothing to worry about” – about a serious problem that had caused harm to my friend”. My suggestion was that they simply provide more training on a very particular topic.
As most reasonable people would agree, if complaints about serious problems are not handled in a respectful, professional, courteous and timely manner with prudent action then the problems actually become compounded and exacerbated, rather than alleviated. Clearly that is what has happened to my friend. Now I am making these problems public in an effort to continue to press SHCH to act in an upstanding and constructive manner.
Dr. Gerlinda Lucas and Dr. Sopheak Thai of SHCH have even gone so far as to threaten to discontinue my friend's lifesaving treatment as retribution in response to my complaints. These threats have proven to be extremely upsetting to both me and the poor sick patient. I believe that these unconscionable threats also badly tarnish the reputation of SHCH by violating a basic tenet of generally accepted medical ethics.
I have written to Mr. Kevin O'Brien about these problems and he has only responded by banishing me from the hospital, (negatively impacting the care that my friend is able to receive by limiting and compromising the quality of the care that I can provide) and by offering to return the money that I had donated to the hospital. I had not asked for my money back, Mr. O'Brien's offer to return my donations was unprompted by me, but I did take him up on his offer.
Mr. O'Brien evidently also fully endorses and approves the decision by Dr. Lucas and other doctors on his staff to cease communicating with me entirely about my friend's condition, while knowing full well that the patient was/is entirely dependent upon me for daily care and support. This conscious decision was made in response to serious complaints about the quality of care my friend was receiving... and it resulted in directly increasing the patient’s suffering and placing the patient in a more risky health position on a daily basis.
This conscious decision to end cooperation with me and to leave me in the dark about the patient’s status (diagnosis, treatment, nutritional advice, prognosis, and information about what to do in case the patient's condition worsens), clearly needlessly places the patient in a higher risk health situation on a daily basis
It seems to me that SHCH has an obligation to all of its patients and their respective care-givers to refrain from doing things that are harmful and restrict their activities to doing things that are helpful and supportive.
I find this type of uncivil response (uncooperative, rude, demonizing, threatening, etc.) to legitimate complaints about life-saving healthcare for a fragile patient to be reprehensible and indefensible – it is shocking and scandalous in my opinion.
I let Mr. O'Brien know about this in a letter I sent to him via e-mail and his response was to avoid any discussion at all (with me) about the issues I raised, to ban me from the hospital, to accuse me of harassment (a completely ludicrous, bizarre and baseless accusation), to tell me that he had shown my letter to his board of directors who thought that "there was something wrong with me", and then to tell me that I "need therapy".
After witnessing Mr. O’Brien’s and Dr. Lucas’ rude and unprofessional response to my complaints I wrote a letter (months ago) and sent it via e-mail to Bernard Krisher, the chairman of the board of SHCH. To date Mr Krisher has not replied to my polite plea for help.
I am making these facts public on the SHCH Facebook discussion forum with the hope that SHCH will reconsider its decisions and actually live up to the promises that it makes to both patients (and their care-giving friends and families), and to SHCH’s many donors.
- What do you think about this?
- If a hospital – any hospital – makes mistakes or has pervasive, persistent and identifiable problems or shortcomings shouldn’t they be held accountable to make amends in an honorable fashion, remedy the situation professionally in an above board way, and take corrective action to ensure that the problems of the past are not repeated in the future?
- Is it appropriate for the hospital’s CEO to offer to return a substantial donation given in good faith?
- Is a refusal to engage in civil discussion an acceptable response to legitimate complaints?
- Should people who complain about healthcare problems be ignored, insulted and demonized?
- Should patients who complain either personally or via the advocacy of their caregiver be threatened with discontinuance of treatment?
- Should doctors intimidate patients about actions taken by their care-givers that the patient had no responsibility or control over (this is what has happened)?
- Do you think that SHCH should take prompt action to remedy this specific situation by cooperating with the patient’s sole-caregiver and sole means of support in a positive, friendly and constructive manner that would benefit all parties involved?
- Do you need more information? I can provide more factual detail, but not to the point that would jeopardize my friend’s privacy.
This is how Steve told the story and obviously I have no way of confirming the details but have no reason to disbelieve him. The truth of the matter is the NHCH needs to get it act together and work with care giver as is recognized and good international practice.
Please take the time to read Steve FB for a fuller story !!
- Sok Sobi. I enjoy taking pictures of people and places, particular interest in Landscape, People and Travel photography. Pictures and stories that bring Social Awareness and the potential for long term social change or policy are important to me. I use Canon Digital Cameras (EOS 1Ds,1D Mk1,2,4 plus Powershot G11) with a selection of Canon lenses, the 24-105 IS f4L being my favourite at present. I use Lightroom & Photoshop Elements to edit my work. Canon equipment and lenses give me just what I need, reliability and high IQ. I am now living and working in Cambodia, South East Asia, using Phnom Penh as a base to explore the region. I publish stories that are important to me on my blog but always try to give a balanced picture.