A Facebook post from Prime Minister Hun Sen defending his trip to Singapore to undergo a routine medical checkup yesterday comes amid an ongoing squabble between a Khmer-American tycoon and a governmental medical association over the state of Cambodian health care.
“Just because I have a medical checkup in Singapore, it does not mean that I do not have trust in Cambodian doctors,” assured the premier on his official Facebook account.
“I also get treatment in Cambodia from Cambodian doctors. However, Cambodian doctors recommended that I get my medical checkup abroad in order to identify some types of diseases that we do not have equipment for.”
The controversy started when, in an interview with the Post’s Khmer-language edition earlier this month, Quach Mengly, an American doctor and director of Mengly J Quach Holding, expressed shock at the behaviour and ethics of Cambodian health care officials, who he said prioritised money over care.
“If poor people go to the hospital, I guarantee that they will sleep on the street,” he said. “The unqualified and unethical medics are the ones who kill people.”
His derisive commentary, while praised by scores of Cambodians on Facebook, elicited a harsh demand for an apology from the Committee of Cambodian Medical Professionals, a grouping of associations within the Ministry of Health, who said Mengly’s statements debased Cambodian doctors and that the government had done much to improve Cambodia’s health care sector.
“Poor people can receive treatment for free at the public healthcare institutions via equity funds and other financial mechanisms in accordance with the government’s policy,” the committee said in a press release.
Kem Ley, a social researcher who founded the Khmer for Khmer political movement, said the practice of Cambodian elites seeking medical care abroad only worked to prolong Cambodia’s inferior medical system.
“If they get domestic health care and see for themselves that service is poor, then they would make changes. But if they go abroad, they won’t care. So who is using what health care services nowadays?
Irresponsible and selfish people who are rich pursue health care abroad, while people who are poor receive domestic health care,” he said.
Spokespeople from the Ministry of Health could not be reached for comment.