The ministries of Health and Interior have plans in the works to establish nearly 30 new medical facilities in underserved provinces, including health centres, health posts and referral hospitals.

Some of the existing referral hospitals and health centres will receive upgrades as well, which will be determined after evaluating the quality of services and patient treatment that they provide.

These plans are pursuant to an agreement made earlier this year between the ministries of Economy and Finance and Civil Service that called for the establishment of 42 new health facilities by 2021.

According to an inter-ministerial prakas from the interior and health ministries dated December 23, there will be 18 health centres established across the provinces of Kratie, Kampong Speu, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Svay Rieng, Kandal, Ratanakiri and Stung Treng.

It goes on to say that, additionally, two new referral hospitals will be built in Kratie province along with eight new health posts.

A number of existing facilities will also receive upgrades in status from Level 1 to Level 2 referral hospitals, including Bakeo Referral Hospital in Ratanakkiri province’s Bakeo district, Puok Referral Hospital in Siem Reap province’s Puok district, and Preah Netr Preah Referral Hospital in Banteay Meanchey province’s Preah Netr Preah district along with the Kep Provincial Referral Hospital.

A total of 10 health posts in six provinces will be upgraded to health centre status in order to better fulfil the people’s needs in the areas they serve, according to the inter-ministerial document.

Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told The Post that the decision to establish and upgrade these health units was part of Cambodia’s commitment to continue developing the health care sector and that decisions as to which areas were to receive new facilities had been made after consideration of whether it would be possible to upgrade the existing service’s capacity to meet the needs of the citizenry.

“Any investment of resources made to develop Cambodia’s health sector has to be primarily focused on building hospital capacity whenever feasible, because our health services, healthcare system and health infrastructure are all still quite limited,” she said.

She explained further that Cambodia has health posts, health centres and referral hospitals designated as Level 1, 2 or 3.

In some cases it would be a more effective use of Cambodia’s limited resources to enhance and upgrade existing facilities, such as turning a post into a centre or a Level 1 into a Level 2 hospital depending on the specific circumstances.

Vandine added that the purpose of these changes was to improve the provision of healthcare to people living in areas that lacked sufficient services, often causing people to have to travel a long way to get treatment.

These new and upgraded facilities should allow more people to receive health services at a lower cost and in a timely manner, according to Vandine.

Chhneang Sovutha, the director of the Kratie provincial health department, told The Post that among all the provinces where the ministry decided to establish and install new infrastructure, Kratie had the largest need at present with a health sector that had lagged behind the pace of national development.

“Our team has already prepared everything, because the need had become urgent. For example, in Sambor district people need to travel a very long way to Kratie town to receive any health services. In terms of human resources and staffing for the new facilities we will need more people,” he said.

According to Sovutha, Kratie province has a shortage of highly qualified doctors and technical specialists, particularly those with a lot of experience. The reason for the shortage is no mystery – it is always more difficult to recruit medical professionals to come and work in such a remote province.

Sovutha assessed that in order for the new health posts and referral hospitals to start seeing patients regularly, Kratie province will need to hire at least 100 more medical professionals including doctors, specialists, nurses and technicians.