Laos: Clinics probed over abortions
|Publisher||Radio Free Asia|
|Publication Date||5 September 2012|
|Cite as||Radio Free Asia, Laos: Clinics probed over abortions, 5 September 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5052e2a632.html [accessed 2 September 2014]|
Lao authorities look into reports of illegal abortions at Chinese clinics in Xiengkhouang.
A woman receives a shot at a village in northern Laos's Luang Prabang province, May 4, 2012. AFP
Authorities in northeastern Laos are investigating reports of illegal abortions at local clinics run by bogus medical practitioners from China amid questions over supervision of the substandard health centers.
Clinics in Xiengkhouang province's Paek district have come under scrutiny after several women who underwent abortions fell sick and sought treatment at the provincial hospital last month.
The three clinics the women had visited have been licensed for some time, but are run under little official oversight, an official at the Xiengkhouang hospital said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He said the authorities were discussing problems in the clinics, but had not yet sent inspectors to the clinics or taken further action to address reports of substandard conditions.
"The authorities are talking about this, but no one has taken any initiative," he said.
"They say health services [should] go there and take a look at how the clinics are operated, whether they are complying with the rules, whether [proper] medical equipment is used, and whether the doctors meet professional standards."
He added that many of those who visited the clinics found their treatment was costly and ineffective.
Paek residents say the treatment provided by the clinics is not up to standard, with no adequate equipment, and that the centers were effectively committing fraud and performing abortions illegally.
Elective abortions are banned in Laos, where they are considered a violation of Article 85 of the criminal law for both the doctors and women involved.
Some residents have also accused the clinics of dumping the aborted fetuses in nearby lakes and ponds, contaminating the local water supply.
One man from Paek said that no residents in the district trust the Chinese clinics and that only poor villagers from rural areas visit them.
"Most of the time they are a fraud and patients are cheated by people who do not understand anything. They just cheat you to get your money," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He said his grandmother had once gone to one of the Chinese clinics in the district and received poor care.
"They should have had better medical equipment and given her a real examination, but the Chinese doctor just looked her over with his eyes and gave her a prescription. None of the medicine they gave was able to cure the disease."
"They cannot be trusted," he said.
Paek residents said they believe officials have not cracked down on the substandard conditions in the clinics because the businesses exert influence on corrupt local authorities.
The Xiengkhouang hospital official said he suspected the clinics might hold sway over officials.
"I, too, do not understand why no one dares to get involved in this. What kind of power do the Chinese clinics have? Last year the Ministry of Health took a look at this, but nothing has been done," he said.
Laos has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Southeast Asia.
Unsafe abortions are believed to be a contributing factor, but little information on them is available because the procedure is often performed illicitly.
In 2000, with help from nongovernmental organizations like the U.N. Population Fund, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Bank, the Lao government established new millennium goals which aimed to reduce by more than half its rate of 790 maternal deaths per 100,000 childbirths that year – to 300 by 2015.
In 2009, the maternal mortality rate in Laos dropped to 500 mothers for every 100,000, according to the United Nations Development Program, down from 580 the previous year.
But Lao officials reported to the U.N. last year that the country is unlikely to achieve its millennium goals.
Medical coverage is a key problem.
The World Bank had said that human resources for maternal health in the country are limited with only 0.35 physicians per 1,000 people. Nurses and midwives are slightly more common at 0.97 per 1,000 people.
Reported by Apichart Sopapong for RFA's Lao service. Translated by Somnet Inthapannha. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.