Some 200 dentistry students, professors and practitioners yesterday gathered to submit a petition to the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly urging Prime Minister Hun Sen and the government to reconsider allowing dental nurses to open their own clinics, a move they say would undermine professionalism in the industry.
The controversy initially stemmed from a Ministry of Health prakas that went into effect on November 3, and allows dental nurses, who have only three years of training, to set up their own practices.
While the ministry maintained that nurses would only be able to offer limited services, experts noted that even full-fledged clinics are currently under-regulated, and any further relaxing of rules could cause the industry to collapse.
“We hope that the law will be amended by omitting the word ‘Dental Nurse’ . . . which means that the dental nurse is not permitted, by the law, to open their private practice,” said Cheang Pengleang, of the Cambodian Dental Students’ Association.
Under a previous version of the law, “only a dental doctor, dentist or a physician of oral specialty” was able to open a private practice. Health Minister Mam Bunheng declined to comment, and Dr Hak Sithan, head of the oral health office at the department of preventive medicine, claimed ignorance of the petition and referred questions to other ministry officials.
Seng Savorn, an adviser at the Council of Ministers who received the petition, said it would be sent to experts before being forwarded to the premier to make a decision.
Dr Solita Yam, president of the Cambodian Dental Association, said they hope the government will reconsider or at least allow for a “public debate”.