Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Dysfunction in Cambodia’s health care system




Dysfunction in Cambodia’s health care system

Dysfunction in Cambodia’s health care system

Anyone concerned by Cambodia’s poor health system knows Swiss doctor Beat Richner, the founder and head of the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals.

For nearly a quarter of a century he is, without doubt, the person who has saved the most lives in this country.

It is nationally recognised that the four hospitals Dr Richner keeps running in Siem Reap province and Phnom Penh form an island of probity, dedication and effectiveness in an ocean of corruption, neglect and ineffectiveness in this country’s health system.

On July 20, Dr Richner published a moving appeal in The Phnom Penh Post titled "A Request To The European Union".

Its content exposes striking facts and challenging evidence: “The Kantha Bopha Hospitals are treating 85% of all severely sick Cambodian children (...). All treatment is free (…). 85% of the budget (2015: 43 Million USD) [come from] private donations (…).

The Kantha Bopha Hospitals are facilities with western standard and without corruption. No one of the 2500 Cambodian staff is taking money from the patients.

No one staff is working outside of Kantha Bopha in a private clinic or elsewhere [as is usually the case for the staff working at state-run hospitals and health centers all over Cambodia].”

Dr Richner is right to point to the fact that the Kantha Bopha Hospitals are among health care institutions that can boast the most cost-effective healing approaches worldwide.

With a relatively limited annual budget of $43 million – representing less than 20 per cent of the entire state budget allocated to public health – Dr Richner’s private but non-profit hospitals treat and, whenever possible with modern medicine, save 85 per cent of all Cambodian children in need of medical care.

Any occasional donation to the Kantha Bopha Hospitals from the Cambodian government or the Cambodian Red Cross may help some people look good but is not the right and responsible way to address the chronic dysfunction in the country’s health care system.

The very existence of the facilities run by Dr Richner is a permanent reminder of this dysfunction.

As Dr Richner himself puts it, “Saving the life of a child is a human obligation. It should not depend on charity.”

As for any endeavour resting on the shoulders of a single person, the future of the Kantha Bopha Hospitals seems uncertain, if not worrying, with Dr Richner preparing for his retirement and calling for a scheme paving the way for his work to continue without him.

Given the high stake associated with the future of the Kantha Bopha Hospitals I can only express shock and anxiety when noting that Dr Richner’s appeal seems to have not been heeded by those government officials who should feel most seriously concerned.

Actually, ensuring continuity over the years and decades to come for the unique work performed at the Kantha Bopha Hospitals represents a triple challenge:

• For the Cambodian government, this is a golden opportunity to consider putting in place a real and effective public health policy.

This includes training professional health economists while analysing, comparing and choosing health care models on the basis of their respective efficiencies.

• For the international donor community, this is also a unique opportunity to reconsider its aid approach and to exert adequate pressure in order to help overhaul Cambodia’s derelict public health sector.

• For the Cambodian people, when casting ballots at the forthcoming national elections, the choice is clear between a corrupt and irresponsible system resting on an everlasting beggar mentality and an alternative system based on transparency, probity, dignity and responsibility that are part of good governance and democracy.

Sam Rainsy
CNRP President
Minority leader

MOST VIEWED

  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • PM dispels lockdown rumours, gifts masks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on November 12 denied rumours that he will lock down the country in response to increased Covid-19 fears, referring to them as propaganda aimed at destabilising the country. In a Facebook post, he said some people had spread rumours that the government

  • SilkAir adds flight to Phnom Penh schedule

    Silkair (Singapore) Pte Ltd is increasing its flight frequency between Phnom Penh and Singapore with a third weekly flight on Saturdays, according to Cambodia Airports’ Facebook page. The other flights offered are on Tuesdays and Sundays, with an estimated Phnom Penh arrival time at 5:35pm