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Cambodia forum

Medical Scam

Posted by galalhametayel on 23/8/2010 at 22:21


I would like to share with you the story of the one and only scam I fell in during my 4 month travel circuit in SE Asia.

While staying in Siem Reap, Cambodia I developed a rash on my arms. A tuk-tuk driver told me that lots of Khmers get it as well but as a foreigner who isn't immune to local ailments i should be probably get checked out. He took me to the China-Khmer Friendship Hospital, where a Chinese man who spoke fluent English. He told me that lots of foreigners come down to the hospital with this affliction and they already know how to take care of that. He was very persuasive and he told me that in order for the medication to be effective they should be administered via IV. As weird as it sounds i consented, keeping in my mind that health is important and that my insurance will cover the cost. I only got seriously suspicious when the tuk-tuk driver came to check up on me.

I demanded to see a detailed list of what my treatment includes. In the print-out they gave me there were some terms i could not understand, but some medicines I identified as placeboes. I unhooked myself from the IV and went to another clinic. The doctor there confirmed my suspicions and advised me to not involve the police, since in Cambodia they're as useful as UN sanctions. When I left the clinic I decided that despite the Doctor's advice I would like to call the police. I stopped random locals and tuk-tuk drivers but noone knew the police's number!! I stepped into a hotel and asked if they could help me, but after watching them browse the phonebook (!!) fir a few minutes i gave up.

I went back to the Chinese hospital to take the bag I took as a deposit, yelled at them for scamming me, and walked out without paying. The Chinese man followed me on his moped and short-dialed the police from his cell. Since i wasn't sure whether it was real police he is calling or not i asked again around me if someone has the police number and this time someone had it! It was a regular long number (not a short emergency one) and the policeman on the other end had terrible English and didn't understand what i wanted from him. I gave up again and started to raise a riot with the Chinese to the bewilderment of many spectators. Finally the cop that the Chinese man called showed up. He arrived in a civillian vehicle and wore no uniforms. On the other hand he had an ID and he was a little big. Obviously he took the Chinese man side. I then told the Chinese man that even though I know he scammed me I will pay because my travel insurance will refund me and im tired of him. Then the SOB admitted to me then that he scammed me and demanded an additional 10$ for the trouble I caused him. I paid him 230$ not including the additional 10$. He got mad and told me he will come to my guesthouse at night.

To conclude:
He didn't come after me at night; my travel insurance has refunded me fortunately; lots of Khmers look at you like you're a money sack.
The reason I fell into this scam was that I really didn't expect a hospital to scam me. Keep your heads up and safe Travels!!

#1 galalhametayel has been a member since 23/8/2010. Posts: 1

Posted by exacto on 23/8/2010 at 23:39

Yup, sounds like a real bummer but there are valuable lessons here for novice and veteran travellers alike.

First, remember that tuk tuk and taxi drivers are typically working for themselves, and not you. From restaurants to guest houses to brothels and even hospitals apparently, they will make a suggestion based on what is best for them, not necessarily what is best for you.

My travel insurance has always included a 24-hour number I could call for assistance in locating a reputable clinic or hospital if needed. Failing that, travellers can always try to contact their home country's embassy or consulate for assistance finding a good clinic as well.

Second, even though you thought the treatment was a scam, once you consented to it, you pretty much need to suck it up and pay. Definitely before anyone agrees to any good or service, they will want to be sure the good or service is what they want. But once you agree, you are stuck. Pretty much the only thing you might have done was to try and negotiate for a lower price after the fact.

Finally, getting mad like this pretty much guarantees that you won't get what you want, but it will make you look like an escaped mental patient in the eyes of everyone else around. Best to keep your cool and your wits about you. You'll probably still come out on the losing end of the deal, but perhaps not quite as badly. Cheers.

#2 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,762
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Posted by sayadian on 24/8/2010 at 00:24

Great post reply from Exacto and I'd agree 100%.
Just like to add a warning for travellers in Cambodia who require medical treatment.A lot of the doctors in the country are qualified not because they studied but because their familieas were rich enough to buy the answers to the exam questions.I kid you not.
If you really need something for a minor problem you would do better by researching the subject on the internet and self-treat.
If it is more serious I suggest you ask at your guesthouse for the name of a good doctor preferably one who has been trained overseas, which normally means France.There are decent medical facilities in Seam Reap, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville if you ask around.If you get ill anywhere else try to get to one of these places.
I went to a doctor up country after coming off my motorbike and breaking a rib.He gave me laxatives and antibiotics!!!I know this because I checked with the pharmacist.My story is not unusual.When the average Khmer gets ill he gets whatever is on the shelf not what he needs.
Also, you say you had an IV.I hope you made sure the needle came out of the packet in your presence because it is not unheard of for hospitals to reuse.Best thing if you are really ill get over the border to Thailand were the treatment is good and not too expensive.
Last point. I know many families in Cambodia who have lost everything through being scammed by unscrupulous doctors who sell them expensive but useless 'cures'.So it's not only Barangs who get scammed.

#3 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557
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Posted by busylizzy on 24/8/2010 at 03:31

Agree with the excellent advice given above. The first thing that struck me was that it seemed strange to give medicine via IV for a rash? Mind you, I'm not in the medical field so I guess it's feasible.

If you really need something for a minor problem you would do better by researching the subject on the internet and self-treat.

I think is excellent advice. I tend to do this at home anyhow rather than seeing a doctor (for relatively minor ailments) but even for more significant things as I feel better prepared for options when I go in.

Also, you say you had an IV.I hope you made sure the needle came out of the packet in your presence because it is not unheard of for hospitals to reuse
I actually carried two needles with me in my first aid kit - 'just in case'. I'm not an overly paranoid person, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to be prepared just in case I came off a motorbike in some small rural town where facilities were lacking. My mother is a nurse so I got them through her, but I think you can get them at any pharmacy.

#4 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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Posted by mooball on 24/8/2010 at 07:45 TF writer

Just curious. If you knew you had been scammed, why did you hand over $230?

I don't think I'd ever get hooked up to an IV in a country like Cambodia unless I was near death. Almost everything can be administered orally anyway...

#5 mooball has been a member since 19/6/2010. Location: Australia. Posts: 439
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Posted by Tennouji on 31/8/2010 at 17:51

@#5 Well, he did say the "policeman" was big!

A reputable place would give you some idea of the cost beforehand.

#6 Tennouji has been a member since 22/9/2007. Location: Japan. Posts: 136
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