Health Minister Hong Sun Huot has ordered a team of ministry officials to conduct
a nation-wide survey of hospitals and health services and submit a report on the
situation before October. This data will be used to help the new government revamp
the health care system, the minister said during a recent visit to Battambang.
Allegations of corruption in the health system have been rife in recent years. Doctors
and hospital staff have been accused of filing false reports about the number of
patients and medical resources they have in order to get more money from the government.
They have aslo been accused of selling drugs on the black market. As a result of
these charges, NGOs and international organizations have been reluctant to co-ordinate
their activies with the local health authorities. The minister said he was now working
hard to change that perception and to ensure them that all their aid will be used
properly for the benefit of the Cambodian people.
Doctors in Battambang admitted that there are certain circumstances when patients
are required to buy medicines by themselves if they are not available in the hospitals.
But they stressed this was mainly because of a shortage of cash and medical supplies.
In virtually all the hospitals in remote areas, there is also a lack of emergency
transport such as ambulances to carry seriously injured patients to the provincial
Since UNTAC arrived in March last year they have taken over much of the responsibility
for transporting patients. Other patients must pay to hire their own transport.
Huot gave his firm commitment to approach the government and seek international help
to provide medical supplies for all of the country.
''I'd like to promise again and again to successfully solve this problem," he
said. He also pledged to train enough physicians to meet the country's needs by making
overseas scholarships available for interested physicians and students throughout
During the UNICEF-organized visit, Huot and his wife, who were accompanied by Nancy
Boud, the minister's special assistant and UNICEF representatives Bermand Gilbert
and Eric Mercie met with a number of provincial government officials, local UNICEF
staff and regional health workers and physicians.
The minister and the delegation were informed in detail of the health situation in
Battambang, which is said to have some of the best health care in the country. Local
health workers and physicians attribute its reputation to co-operation and support
from international organizations and NGOs in the province including UNICEF, ICRC,
UNHCR, UNDP, MSF, ANS, IFRC, CRSI, WVI.
As part of his visit, Huot inspected some district health services, including Maung
Russey's, where he was invited to preside over a ceremony to inaugurate a new maternity
ward in the district's hospital which was erected with funds provided by Action Nord
Sud as well as the regional intermediate medical school, where he met and talked
to several hundred students as they took a lesson on AIDS.
The minister encouraged the students to help educate people about the dangers of
the killler disease and methods of prevention. He urged the students to think about
helping the nation and the people before money when they leave school for work.
He also promised to take measures against people taking bribes and to make overseas
scholarships available for students in the provinces.
Battambang province is often cited as a model of co-ordination among international
organizations and NGOs, especially in the field of health care.
Tea Heanh, Battambang's deputy governor, said that at the beginning things had not
gone so smoothly but improved after the province arranged to have a monthly meeting
of humanitarian organizations to ensure that their projects did not clash.
In a final meeting before he left for Phnom Penh, Huot encouraged local physicians
and health workers to closely cooperate with international organizations and NGOs
and work toward increasing their faith in the government services.
He also expressed his profound gratitude on behalf of the government to the international
organizations and NGOs for their help and support in Cambodia.