Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi

Ten detained hospital workers say they were just following orders from their superiors when they abandoned three patients in a remote area for failing to pay for medical services, according to Tehran’s prosecutor.

Iranian media report that Abbas Jafari Dowlatabdi said: “Ten people have been so far arrested in this matter and they all have confessed that this act was carried out and they have attributed their actions to their superiors.”

Yesterday Health Minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi denied reports that the hospital was involved in stranding the patients outside Tehran. In fact, he said the hospital is filing complaints against employees who removed the patients.

She dismissed reports that are critical of the public hospital, calling them attempts to smear the health ministry’s reputation.

Tehran’s prosecutor rejected the health minister’s statements, saying he has seen no evidence of any attempt to harm the ministry’s reputation. If such evidence exists, the prosecutor said, the health minister should forward it to his office.

Prosecutor Dowlatabdi confirmed that the ministry of health did indeed file a complaint with respect to this case but he added that filing a complaint does not exempt the ministry from any responsibility.

The prosecutor’s office recently announced that on the night of April 14, three patients who were under treatment in a public hospital were taken by van to a farm outside Tehran and abandoned there because they were unable to pay their hospital bills.

The report triggered widespread outrage, and some analysts have blamed such occurrences on the financial difficulties faced by public hospitals after government subsidies were cut and energy costs suddenly soared.