Some 393 unlicensed doctors who dispensed medical treatment in Svay Rieng province will face legal action, the head of the provincial Health Department Ke Rotha said on Sunday.

He said he had sent their names to the provincial court last week for illegally providing health services without permission from the provincial health department and the Ministry of Health.

Unlicensed “doctors” have caused the deaths of up to seven people in the province over the past five years, while the incorrect prescription of drugs could cause long-term negative health effects in many others, he said.

No one had been prosecuted over the deaths as no complaints had been filed, while technical officials had made mistakes when investigating the cases, Rotha said.

“We cannot accept people working as doctors without training or official permission. We cannot allow them to carry on practising as some of them are old and have no medical degree."

“However, we encourage those who are young enough to study medicine to get the proper training,” he said.

Thanh Ven, a rural doctor without a medical degree who had been practising in Svay Teap district’s Romaing Thkol commune, said he had treated people for almost 40 years without any problems.

He said he had been trained in medicine under the Khmer Rouge regime, and people had always come to him for treatment for minor ailments such as headaches.

However, if a patient was suffering from a serious medical condition, he would send them to the hospital or to see a specialist.

“I learned medicine under the Pol Pot regime. Villagers always asked me to treat them. I never dared to treat anyone with a serious health problem. But now the provincial Department of Health has warned me to stop treating anybody,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kuy Phann, a former doctor at Svay Rieng province’s Svay Chrum referral hospital, said on Sunday that although his medical licence had expired upon retirement, locals still called on him to treat them and give them injections.

He said he had never had a problem in his career and had successfully treated thousands of people. No one had suffered as a result, he said. But upon retirement, he treated only minor ailments and referred those with more serious conditions to a specialist.

“I went everywhere to give people injections, and now the authorities want me to sign a contract saying I will no longer do so. When they required me to stop, I stopped, no problem. But so far there have been no issues due to my treatment.”

Svay Rieng provincial court spokesman Tep Phalla said he was yet to receive the list of the illegal doctors as it was a Sunday.

Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng, Or Vandine, director-general of Technical Health at the Ministry of Health and ministry spokesperson Lo Veasnakiry could not be reached for comment by The Post by press time.

Eang Kimly, rights group Adhoc coordinator for Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces, told The Post on Sunday that rural areas should have doctors at health clinics to provide treatment.

But it was unclear whether they had all received proper medical degrees or held licences to practice.

She said she supported the court action as people had died due to unlicensed doctors, with no one held accountable.

She called on young, aspiring physicians to get their medical degrees, while older doctors practising without certification or a licence should cease their activities to prevent harming patients.

“It has happened, [we] know it has, and not only in Svay Rieng province but also in others. I know of a woman who died a few days ago while giving birth at a private clinic in Prey Veng province.

“It was clearly not a specialist clinic as she bled heavily while giving birth and died. No one seems to know who was responsible or who should face prosecution,” she said.