Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi

Iran’s minister of health has denied recent reports that medical services are being withheld from patients who can’t pay for them.

ISNA reports that health minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi referred to such claims as obvious attempts to “distort the exemplary services of the system’s healthcare providers.”

Last week, the office of Tehran prosecutor announced that two patients who were being treated at a hospital on the night of April 14 were moved from the hospital and abandoned in a farm outside the city because they were unable to pay for their hospital services.

The news triggered widespread outrage in the media.

Contrary to the health minister’s rejection of this report, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi announced on April 25 that six hospital personnel were involved in the incident and arrest warrants had been issued for them.

According to the prosecutor, the incident occurred in the Firouzgar public hospital in Shar-e Rey. In addition to the hospital’s own internal investigation into the matter, the hospital director has also written a report especially for the prosecutor.

Once that news broke, Iranian media also reported on Showkat Karimi, a 70-year-old woman who was denied medical services and abandoned because she was unable to pay.

Another incident about denial of services to leprosy patients in Mashhad has also hit the news recently. Media coverage of this incident has reportedly forced the hospital in Mashhad to readmit these patients for continued care.

The Iranian health system has faced heavy criticism in the media in recent weeks, and many analysts maintain that cutting government subsidies has exacerbated the financial problems faced by public hospitals.