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Prisons to get health upgrade

Prisons to get health upgrade

A cameraman on Monday films a poster giving medical tips to prisoners at a debate on improving health care in jails.

THE Ministry of Interior’s Department of Prisons is set to explore ways of reducing the strain on the health care services available in the Kingdom’s overcrowded jails, officials said Monday.

At a seminar for prison chiefs organised jointly with the Ministry of Health and the International Committee of the Red Cross, Heng Hak, director general of the Department of Prisons, said there are about 13,057 prisoners in Cambodia, and that an increase of prisoners will only strain the services of the prison system.

He said that in the nation’s 24 prisons, there are only 88 nurses, adding that prisoners are at high risk of tuberculosis, high fevers, HIV/AIDS and chronic diarrhoea.

“We are facing this problem by repairing old buildings and increasing daily food allowance from 1,500 riels to 2,800 riels per day,” said Heng Hak, referring to prison reforms introduced earlier this month.

“They also now receive 5,000 riels per month for their medical treatment.”

Sam Sakun, deputy director of the Department of Prisons said that only four of the nation’s 24 jails are currently able to receive adequate medical supplies from the Ministry of Health: the two Prey Sar prisons near Phnom Penh, Kandal provincial prison and Banteay Meanchey provincial prison.

He stated that as of June this year, 204 prisoners had contracted HIV/AIDS and 135 were suffering from tuberculosis.

Sear Huong, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Health, said that health services were rationed fairly, but that the main problem was a simple lack of supplies.

“We provide the prisoners health services without discrimination, but services are still limited, so there is no guarantee on quality,” he said at the seminar.

Senior prison researcher Nget Sokun of the human rights NGO Licadho said that his organisation always tries to provide prisoners with proper treatment when it performs health inspections.