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Retired doctor talks new venture

9 Dr Douch Dina

Dr Ouch Dina’s new maternity clinic rests on the assumption that growth in Cambodia’s private medical sector continues unabated, potentially reversing a trend of going abroad for key treatments.

“Since the restoration of the country when the health sector was totally destroyed [during the Khmer Rouge regime], public opinion has doubted our health sector because we were the younger generation,” the 62-year old said. “I think if we try to promote our techniques, our human resources, they will believe in us.”

At the source of this ambitious goal is Dina’s Indradevi Maternity & Clinic, which took him two years to build and an investment pool of about $1 million. The inauguration of the building, located in Tuol Kork district, took place in January.

A seven-storey structure with more than 40 rooms for patients, Dina’s clinic is just starting to see an influx of patients, mostly expectant mothers looking for moderately priced service. In slower times, however, the rooms sit empty.

“We think about the budgets and jobs of our families, and from one day to another, we evaluate to make improvements,” he said. “If we don’t follow the situation of status, our lives will be very difficult.”

Dina, a retired obstetrician, says he has the background and experience to make the clinic a success.

He started out as a specialist working in women’s health in the late 1980s, when he traveled abroad to study in the Czech Republic. In 1999 and 2000, he went to France to gain advanced skills.

When he wasn’t traveling, he was working in the understaffed and overworked halls of Calmette hospital in Phnom Penh. The crowded complex lacked beds for patients and lacked doctors to attend to them.

He saw an opportunity to both branch out on his own and fill a void.

“So we had this idea to construct a building that would serve as a clinic to provide services for maternity and other health issues,” he said, adding that he still volunteered in the public sphere.

“For the nation, we have the purpose to share the work from public hospitals, which have experienced an increase in patients.

“Nowadays, I am retired, but the hospital still needs me to help,” he added.

He said that costs at private clinics like his own could be upwards of 20 to 30 per cent higher than government-provided care because certain basic items – electricity, water – aren’t subsidised. Without that, the fees are similar.

Dina will have to compete with increased foreign investment in the sector, most notably the Vietnamese-funded Cho-Ray hospital in Phnom Penh, and Royal Rattanak, a Thai venture which is also in the capital.

Also a concern is the feasibility of convincing Cambodians who travel to Vietnam, Thailand and, on the lower scale, Malaysia and Singapore, to stay put and seek treatment here.

Dina said his long-term experience, training abroad and the human capital he plans to bring in will help make up for the gap.

“Nowadays, our service is working, but it is not luxurious yet,” he said.

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