About 300 doctors, nurses and other staff from Phnom Penh Municipal Referral Hospital and the neighbouring Prampi Makara district health centre protested yesterday after authorities said they were relocating them to a smaller building at the back of the premises.
Chanting about corruption and urging authorities not to relocate or sell the state’s assets, protesters – including doctors who have worked for the government for 30 years – said three health facilities were effectively being turned into one.
“The director of the health department and the hospital chief ordered us to move,” Sam Channa, chief of maternal health services at the referral hospital, said.
Worker Min Put Chetha Van, 46, said that under the new arrangement, pregnant women would share a building with those being treated for tuberculosis and other illnesses.
“We don’t want to protest,” he said. “But most of the patients here are poor. There will be no standards if we mix together patients in one small building.”
Workers told the Post they believed the two buildings being vacated were destined to be sold to private investors.
However, Sok Sokun, director of the municipal health department, said authorities planned to refurbish the two buildings to ensure they met health standards, adding they were looking for “private partners” to help do this. He would not confirm when the doctors and nurses would be moved back to the buildings.
“The buildings are so old and do not have enough facilities,” Sokun said. “I’ve asked for budget allocations to repair this every year and it has not happened, so now we are seeking private partnerships to develop and repair the buildings.”
Yer Chreab, 52, who is being treated for tuberculosis at the referral hospital, said he expected his treatment to deteriorate as a result of the shift.
“I am very poor. The doctor is good here and does not charge for the service,” she said. “With the services combined together, it will be difficult.”
Yim Sovann, opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman, said his party did not support the transfer or sale of state property.
“Especially hospitals, they are there to serve the people,” he said. “We do not agree. It’s affecting the health system. We should be creating more hospitals. The population in the municipality is going up.”
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he was not aware of the situation, but added that the government was focused on public-private partnerships.
As part of such arrangements, hospitals were “not sold” but offered to private investors as a joint venture with the state, he said.
“With [this type of] partnership, the premises still belong to the state. They don’t have the right to remove people. They are still under obligation to provide health care services to the public,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHANE WORRELL