Shortage of midwives and access to care emerge as key issues during national health care summit meeting.
Prime Minister Hun Sen shown here in a file photograph.
PRIME Minister Hun Sen told more than 400 public and private-sector health workers Monday that the global economic crisis would not cause the government to fall short of its public health spending commitments.
"The expenses on the health sector remain a priority," he said during his opening remarks at the two-day National Health Congress at the Hotel InterContinental in Phnom Penh. "I can guarantee now that we have enough money to meet the budget."
The 2009 budget calls for US$123 million to be allocated to the Ministry of Health, marking a 21.5 percent increase over last year.
In his speech, Hun Sen also called for expanded training of doctors and nurses willing to work in rural areas, particularly those specialising in reproductive health who could work to combat the Kingdom's high maternal mortality rate.
The 2005 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey, which provides the most recent reliable maternal health data, states that the maternal mortality rate per 100,000 live births increased from 437 in 1997 to 472 in 2005, a figure cited last week by UN Resident Coordinator Douglas Broderick during a forum at the National Assembly.
During a presentation following Hun Sen's remarks, Eng Huot, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, cited "remarkable progress in midwife deployment" at health centres, but he said a shortage persisted.
Sann Chansoeung, deputy general for health at the ministry, told the Post Monday that there are 3,200 trained midwives in Cambodia and that 79 out of 967 health centres have no midwives. He said he believes Cambodia needs at least 100 more trained midwives.
Eng Huot said too few medical students were interested in reproductive health.
He also said some health centres lacked the supplies needed for effective reproductive health care and said others were doing an insufficient job of reaching out to pregnant women in rural areas.
Eng Huot emphasised that efforts to expand access to and improve the quality of all forms of health care had been hindered by infrastructure and staff limitations.
Addressing the need for more health care workers, Hun Sen said, "We do not want people to die because there are not enough doctors, nurses and midwives in hospitals. The development of the country does not depend just on the economy and finances but also on the health and intelligence of the people."