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Govt eyes privatising hospitals

Govt eyes privatising hospitals

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Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG

A woman and her baby walk past Hospital Preah Ket Mealea in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

THE Ministry of Health is in talks with the managers of several state-owned hospitals about the possibility of privatising their operations by the end of the year, a ministry official told the Post Tuesday.

Under the terms of the potential arrangement, the hospital buildings would remain the property of the state while the hospitals themselves would be run by private companies, which would pay the salaries of doctors and staff.

The hospitals involved in the talks include the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital, the National Maternal and Child Health Centre and Preah Kosmak Hospital. The ministry is also looking to privatise the state-owned University of Health Sciences.

The goal of the privatisation would be to improve the quality of health services offered by the hospitals as well as to decrease the number of Cambodians patronising private hospitals outside the country, Heng Taykry, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, told the Post by phone Tuesday.

He said the privatisation would result in price hikes. Moreover, in some cases the quality of services received would be dictated by a patient's ability to pay. Say Sengly, the director of Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital, echoed this view, saying wealthy patients, for example, might enjoy air-conditioned rooms reserved especially for them and might receive more attention from doctors.

Privatising operations would enable the hospital to purchase modern equipment and increase doctors' salaries, Say Sengly said, noting that the hospital employs 600 doctors and other staff and serves 500 patients each day. He said fee hikes would be necessary to finance these improvements.

He said  he believes the hospital will continue to be able to serve poor patients but acknowledged that wealthy patients would receive better service if they were willing to pay for it.

"We have enough ability to help the poor while we take money from the rich for hospital services and products," he said.

In preparation for the transition, Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospitalis recruiting more employees and enhancing the skills of doctors currently employed, he added.

Teng Seoun, deputy director of Preah Kosmak Hospital, said the higher salaries doctors and other medical staff would receive if the hospitals were privatised would discourage them from working at private clinics to supplement their incomes.

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