Prime Minister Hun Sen this week issued a sub-decree exempting medical professionals from age restrictions on the civil service entry exam, while raising the age limit for professionals in other fields and eliminating it entirely for those already working as a public servant.
The cut-off point for those seeking to take the civil service entry exam was previously 30 years old. Hun Sen on his Facebook page said the age restriction had led to a loss of human resources as it prevented some professionals from working for the government.
“After discussing with Health Minister [Mam Bunheng] and Minister of Public Function [Pich Bunthin], I decided to sign this sub-decree to exempt the age condition for 30 positions in the health sector,” he wrote. “I also exempt the [age limitation] for others in the civil servant sector.”
Some of the 30 positions include doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses and midwives, among others. The age limit for those holding a doctorate degree will also be eliminated, while it will be raised to 40 years old for those holding a master’s degree and 35 for those with a bachelor’s degree in fields outside the medical sector.
Chum Sopha, executive director of the Health and Development Alliance, said doing away with the age restriction was a positive step. The health sector workforce is “still not enough to fulfill the demand”, he said.
Hong Someth, a dentistry professor at the University of Health Science, said the move will give dentistry graduates more breathing room to take the test, especially given that dentistry students are required to study seven years, compared to only six years in nearby countries.
“If you limit the age, it will make it harder for those who are older,” he said. However, Cambodian-American doctor Mengly Quach, who has frequently criticised the Kingdom’s health sector, said if you have the workforce, but they don’t have the qualifications, it won’t matter.
He said the government needs to tackle the issue from the bottom up, starting with a good medical curriculum, teaching and training. “There’s so much that the government should be looking at [in the health sector],” he said. “There are a lot of issues.”