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The declining service of state-run hospitals


Health care professionals bear a tremendous amount of responsibility and stress.

Most of the time, they work with a high volume of sick patients. It is their sworn duty to serve those suffering from illness. 

However, medical ethics is still a hot issue surrounding public hospitals across the Kingdom.

Some doctors ignore, or fail to deliver, care to their patients below the poverty belt.

Cambodian medical school graduates pledge to follow a high ethical standard before becoming a professional doctor.

But many of them don’t follow through with their promise to poorer or uninsured patients.

This problem has resulted in the decline of service at state-run hospitals, and Cambodians are thus often reluctant to seek treatment.

Forty-four-year old Chan Vanna, from Takeo province, whose son was sent to a public hospital in Phnom Penh last year when he was the victim of a traffic accident, complained that public hospitals treat people only if they have enough money for the service payment.

She expressed anger with public hospitals, citing poor health care services to the economically disadvantaged.

“If public hospitals always charge money, then who can people count? The doctors ask for money first, before treatment, despite the severe condition [of the patient],” she said.

Funding deficit for treatment at public hospitals is increasingly becoming a major concern for Cambodians. Patients are growing more dissatisfied with hospital facilities and the quality of medical care.

Ouk Dalin, 21, said that she always goes to private hospitals whenever she is sick.

She added that whereas she finds public hospitals disorganized and sometimes unsanitary, private clinics offer first-rate services.

“My relatives and I are always treated well when we stay at the private hospitals, since doctors come to check [on us] both day and night. They speak and perform well with their patients,” she said.

However, Sim Saky, 27, acknowledged that public hospitals are sometimes better than private ones in certain situations.

He raised the example of a serious illness; in this case, one can stay at the hospital longer and spend significantly less money.

“If you have an illness that isn’t major, it is good to go to the private hospital since you can meet a doctor immediately,” he said.

“It is normal that there are a lot of patients at public hospitals, so the service provided is not the same as at private ones. [At public hospitals] we do not leave them [poor patients]. We pay attention to them equally. But lateness always exists,” said Dr Long Ky, Director of General Disease Section at Phnom Penh Municipal Referral Hospital.

“We treat and serve the general public, both rich and poor, equally.”

However, Dr Long Ky admitted there are still some problems in public hospitals regarding the dynamic between patient and doctor.

Health Minister Mam Bunheng said that the Ministry of Health is working to advise medical staff at public hospitals on an improved means of interaction with patients.

“There are a lot of changes. We want to know what specific health centres have problems. We will educate [these medical staff] and solve [these problems] for the people,” he said.

“Also, [those who cannot afford medical care] can go to the public hospitals free of charge and we have the equity card for them.”



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