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Chea Sim to doctors: health industry must improve care, image

Despite improved conditions, hospitals still have much to mend before patients stop going overseas in search of quality healthcare

THE health sector not only needs to improve services, but must fix a tarnished reputation that is driving people to seek health care abroad, Senate President and acting head of state Chea Sim told a conference on medical science Thursday.

"The real problem is that people are seeking more overseas health service," he said, speaking at the opening of the two-day conference at the Hotel Phnom Penh, where doctors and health professionals were sharing experiences on how to improve care. Chea Sim added that some people go abroad even for routine health checks.

Chea Sim said people are forgoing domestic healthcare for several reasons: technical problems with equipment; service at public hospitals that is poor but costs as much as private care; the attitude of healthcare providers and their code of ethics, including doctors taking money for offering quicker care; and fake medicines.

He told attendees, "We have to find solutions" to these problems.

Mam Bun Heng, secretary of state at the Health Ministry, said the ministry has trained nearly 10,000 health staff members to provide services in Cambodia.

"Among them, there are 2,020 health staff graduated from abroad," he said, adding that public health care is expanding, with 43 public hospitals currently offering surgery, up from 35 two years ago.

Mam Bun Heng is expected to lead the health ministry in the next government, according to a draft list of positions released this week.

A doctor from a Phnom Penh public hospital who attended the conference but declined to give his name said Cambodia has many qualified doctors, "but people have no faith that they'll find adequate health treatment in this country".

"People get it in their head that whatever Cambodia has is not good, and what is from overseas is good. We want to erase that concept," he said.

He added, "Doctors themselves must make people trust them."

Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore are the main markets for Cambodians seeking  health treatment overseas. 

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