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Parents seeking medical treatment for their sick children queue outside Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital last year.
Parents seeking medical treatment for their sick children queue outside Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital last year. Pha Lina

Health Ministry vows to improve after complaint

The Ministry of Health has said it will work to improve the qualifications of medical professionals and review the treatment and delivery of care for children in the country in response to a request in an open letter by Dr Beat Richner, founder of the Kantha Bopha hospitals.

Richner, an adviser for the ministry, on Sunday posted the letter on his Facebook page, asking the ministry to develop a government exam for doctors working in private clinics, and to close the private practices of those who fail.

The letter was prompted by the hospitalisation over the weekend of 447 severely ill children, with 146 of the most severe cases of dengue fever and encephalitis having been transferred to Kantha Bopha hospitals from private clinics.

“The ministry will continue discussions by working with [Richner],” a statement posted on the ministry’s Facebook page late on Tuesday reads.

Health Minister Mam Bun Heng yesterday declined to answer questions, saying he was in a meeting.

Richner couldn’t be reached for comment, but Dr Denis Laurent, Kantha Bopha’s deputy director, said he didn’t know the specifics of the exam Richner proposed.

He said a meeting with the ministry was in the works for next week, and more information would become available then. “It’s a very important issue,” he said.

Chheng Kanarath, deputy secretary-general at the Medical Council of Cambodia – the sector’s independent governing body – said currently there is no exam required for medical professionals working in a private or public practice.

They are only required to register with the Medical Council, and to register they need a valid medical diploma and criminal clearance by the Ministry of Justice, he said. For foreigners, the council also requires a letter of good standing from their country’s medical regulating body.

However, Kanarath said the council has been drafting a law on the management of medical professionals, which was approved by the Council of Ministers last month. The medical council, as a part of the law, is looking at an option that would require a medical practice licensing exam, and would apply to all professionals in the health sector, even midwives.

Kanarath said he hoped the law will be passed this year. “That’s the system we want,” he said. “The likelihood of it being adopted is high, but how capable we are to conduct the exam, and when, is the question.”

Dr Hong Someth, who teaches at the University of Health Sciences, said the law, if implemented, could be positive, but only if it’s well enforced. “It could make a difference, but it would take time,” he said.

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