The Ministry of Health and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) are in talks to enhance the technical capabilities of Cambodia’s regional hospitals, aligning them with national hospitals to better serve the population.

This initiative was a focal point of discussion during a September 29 meeting between ministry secretary of state Or Vandine and JICA regional director for Southeast Asia Ibi Tompkins.

The project aims to assess the current situation and requirements for the advancement and enhancement of provincial referral hospitals, it said in a social media post. The goal is to elevate these hospitals to a level where they possess similar clinical technical capabilities to national hospitals.

“This project aims to meet the needs of people, improve the capacity and efficiency of diagnosis, treatment and care, while reducing time and costs for people living in Siem Reap, Kampong Cham and the surrounding areas, especially those who require special services like those found in national hospitals,” it said.

During the meeting, Vandine expressed her appreciation to the people and government of Japan, particularly JICA, for their consistent collaboration with the ministry in its efforts to enhance the well-being of the Cambodian population, and ultimately attain universal health coverage.

Yong Kim Eng, director of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, voiced support for the project, even though the specific methods for achieving the results are not yet known. He regarded the initiative as a positive step forward.

“We have been waiting a long time to see how the capacity of regional hospitals can be upgraded to that of national hospitals. It is necessary as patients sometimes cannot travel long distances. Therefore, local hospitals with good technical capacity will be of great help to local people,” he said.

Simultaneously, he held the belief that the state should consistently perform rigorous and thorough quality control inspections to enhance the quality of regional hospitals.

“If we follow the plan but lack oversight, it will not work. What I have observed is that improving the attitude of medics, equipment, techniques and human resources to meet actual needs are all important issues,” said Kim Eng.

Siem Reap and Kampong Cham provincial health department directors Kros Sarath and Kim Sour Phirun could not be reached for comment on October 1.

During recent monthly meetings with ministry leaders and subordinate unit heads, minister Chheang Ra urged all health officials to prioritise the enhancement of medical service quality in both public and private hospitals. He underscored the importance of responsibility and professional ethics.

He also recommended that leaders, civil servants and health workers at all levels collaborate with national and sub-national working groups to visit local communities and contribute to improving the health of the people.