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Government expands free healthcare

Government expands free healthcare


AN estimated 2.2 million people living in poverty are expected to have received free medical care by the end of this year, an increase of almost 1 million people compared with last year, according to figures provided by the Health Ministry yesterday.

The figures show that about 1.1 million people accessed free medical care in the first six months of this year, a number that is expected to have at least doubled by the end of the year. Last year, a total of 1.5 million people received free care.

Officials speaking at an inter-ministerial meeting on social protection in Phnom Penh yesterday, which was also attended by NGOs, said that a new insurance-style scheme introduced at a state-run hospital in Siem Reap province in August was proving successful and could be used as a model for other government healthcare centres.

Mak Sam Oeun, chief of Angkor Chum Operational District Hospital in Siem Reap province, said about 1,800 local residents had signed up to pay 2,000 riels per month in exchange for medical treatment.

He said that the money collected would be subsidised by the government to cover the costs of medical treatment, including expensive surgical procedures, for residents involved in the scheme.

“This health insurance is to reduce the peoples’ expenditure when they fall seriously sick because the government will pay for them,” he said.

Chhim Sarith, a community-based health insurance team leader for the NGO University Research Co, said similar schemes had previously been run by NGOs working with hospitals. The new model, he said, would help state-run hospitals to become more sustainable and less dependent on donors.

“Now other ODs want to learn from this one because villagers have received health services by paying money to NGOs, but now they can pay to their own community,” he said.

Sok Pheng, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, said 140,000 people had been involved in other community-based health insurance schemes nationwide in the first half of this year.

About 20,000 people were registered for such schemes last year, he said.

He said a government assessment of 50 of the Kingdom’s 79 state-run hospitals had shown that overall quality of care had improved.

“As a result, we see that 20 state hospitals have been recognised for their quality of health service,” he said, adding that the Health Ministry had singled out the 20 hospitals as having shown particular improvement.

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