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Hospital fire destroys records of HIV patients in Cambodia

Hospital fire destroys records of HIV patients in Cambodia

Photo of fire inside a building at a hospital in Cambodia

A massive hospital blaze in Cambodia has destroyed the records of two-thirds of HIV patients in a town with a high rate of the virus.

An electrical malfunction caused the 7 January fire at the Roka Referral Hospital in the Battambang province, northwestern Cambodia.

The building that caught on fire was home to vaccinations, lab equipment and patient records.

The hospital’s director, Eng Samnang, said 266 patient records lost. The records contained patients’ personal details, medical history and medical progress.

‘We thought it was going to be difficult, but now we informed the people, so when they come, we can start [taking their details] again,’ he told The Phnom Penh Post.

The damages bill totalled about US$60,000 with Roka commune chief saying no one was hurt by the fire.

‘All materials including medicines were burned, but nobody died,’ Sim Pov told the Khmer Times.

Staff from the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs came to the Roka commune to provide support by helping to retrieve information from the hospital computers.

Cambodia’s biggest HIV outbreak

The Roka commune in the Battambang province was home to the biggest outbreak of new HIV cases in Cambodian history.

From 8-31 December in 2014, 212 people in the area were diagnosed with HIV. A further 88 people were diagnosed from that time until 2016.

It was uncovered that an unlicensed doctor was the reason behind the cluster of new HIV cases.

Yem Chroeum had deliberately transmitted HIV to hundreds of people in the area using unclean needles and medical equipment.

He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay compensation to hundreds of the people affected. Chroeum was also given a lifetime ban from practising medicine.

Recent death

Since the outbreak, 28 people who were diagnosed with HIV have died.

The most recent death was 60-year-old widow Chhoeun Thuok, who passed away of 8 January.

Roka commune’s director, Beng Sor, claimed Thuok died because she did not regularly take her HIV medications.

‘I appeal to all HIV-positive people to come forward and take medication regularly,’ he told the Khmer Times.