The Ministry of Health acknowledged yesterday in its annual report that the quality of health care services in the Kingdom remains poor, with experts concluding that the slow improvement is due to a lack of government commitment.
The report, released during the first day of the ministry’s annual meeting, points out that the quality of public health care services is still failing to meet patients’ expectations, while costly private health care services are draining people’s pockets.
The report also concedes that the mechanism for inspections of medical clinics is still weak, and that the country faces a shortage of medical professionals, even with an influx of contracted staff.
Health Minister Mam Bunheng hung up on a reporter without providing comment.
However, Chum Sopha, executive director of the NGO Health and Development Alliance, said the health sector has seen “very slow improvement”.
“The health sector remains a priority, but [as] for the action, implementation is very slow,” he said.
The low quality of services stems from the abilities and skills of medical professionals, which are still limited, and in need of effective intervention, the ministry’s report says. A substantial injection of funding would be needed in order to build a solid capacity for staff.
There are also insufficient medical professionals to meet the current staffing demands at local health facilities, despite government approval to hire additional staff, the report says. In 2016, there were a total of 25,382 medical professionals in the country, compared to 20,954 in 2015.
In 2016, 11.4 million people visited health care facilities across the country as outpatients, compared to 10.4 million in 2015. Meanwhile, more than 807,000 people – excluding TB patients – were admitted as inpatients in 2016, compared to nearly 731,000 in 2015.
But shortages of certain forms of treatment still persist. For example, only 21 of the 111 referral hospitals nationwide provide ophthalmology care, while only 331 of 1,164 local health centres nationwide provide basic eye care services.
The report says that in the coming year, the ministry plans to boost enforcement of the Law on the Management of Medical Professionals and punish those who violate it. It will also focus on improving programs at public and private medical schools in an effort to bolster skills.
San Chey, of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, attributed the lagging reforms to a lack of government commitment and corruption.
“There are many [problematic] things to respond to in the health sector,” he said.