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A doctor checks on a patient at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital earlier this year.
A doctor checks on a patient at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital earlier this year. Heng Chivoan

Lack of medics could heighten outbreak risk

Effective response to emerging infectious disease threats relies on a health care system that can stop outbreaks before they reach a national or international level, an ability that could be severely constrained by Cambodia’s lack of adequate health care personnel, according to a new study.

According to a new framework for modelling outbreak risks, published in the peer-reviewed PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases journal on Friday, Cambodia has the fewest health care workers per capita of any nation in the Asia-Western Pacific region – at just 1.2 per 1,000 citizens – which limits its ability to curb outbreaks while they’re still manageable.

“In our model, the size of the health care workforce was used as a proxy for detection and response capacity; however, each country’s situation will be different,” said one of the authors, Nicholas Geard.

Vicky Houssiere, spokeswoman for the WHO in Cambodia, said in an email that the country “recognises the importance of this issue”, and was taking appropriate measures.

However, Sopha Chum, of the Health and Development Alliance, yesterday said that far from building up the workforce, the government was only barely managing to replace retiring doctors, and underfunded programs pertaining to infectious diseases. “The government should invest more in health and increase the recruitment of health care workers,” said.

Ministry of Health officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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