The Phnom Penh Municipal Health Department has closed more than 200 illegal dental clinics in the capital in the first six months of the year, and has filed complaints against their owners to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, health officials said yesterday.
According to Sok Srun, director of the Phnom Penh Dentistry Department, the crackdown began early this year.
“The dentists hold no dentist certificates or technical skills.
They just learned from parents and ran the dental clinics,” Srun said.
“They do not have skills, which causes infections or diseases, so we cannot allow them to run [the clinics].
They are illegitimate and we must shut them down.”
The crackdown is part of a nationwide effort, but figures on the number of clinics closed around the country were not readily available, Srun added.
Ly Sophanna, a spokesman for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said he had yet to see the complaints.
Ke Sovannaroth, an opposition parliamentarian and the chairperson of the National Assembly’s Commission on Health, said that she welcomed the closures.
“The commission is always holding meetings with the Ministry of Health on people’s health, but I have yet to see the department’s reports.
In principle, we do not want to see illegal operations.
They must be legal to ensure clients’ safety,” she said.
Dr Callum Durward, head of the dentistry department at Puthisastra University, said yesterday that while the closures would ultimately be good for patients, such crackdowns are not the ideal way of dealing with the issue of unlicensed dentistry.
“I guess that it is a good thing, in that there is no shortage of dentists in Phnom Penh.
In fact, many dentists are underemployed, partly because there are so many [unlicensed] traditional dentists, and I do think that their practice puts patients at risk, particularly when it comes to cross-infection control,” he explained.
On the other hand, he added, “I do feel bad for [the dentists], because that’s their livelihoods, and it will be hard on their families”.
“What some countries have done is register them, give them some additional training to make sure they’re safe, then allow them to continue to practice and retire” without renewing the clinic’s licence, Durward continued.
“Cambodia never did that in recent decades, and they’re dealing with problem now . . . But from a public safety point of view, I think the public is going to be protected by the removal of these practitioners.”
According to the Department of Hospitals, there are currently 117 clinics in the application process for proper dental clinic licenses.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE