Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Surgical care lags in Kingdom

Surgical care lags in Kingdom

A woman is injected with anesthesia before surgery in 2013. Experts at a conference yesterday said that access to surgical care in the Kingdom was severely lacking.
A woman is injected with anesthesia before surgery in 2013. Experts at a conference yesterday said that access to surgical care in the Kingdom was severely lacking. Nick Street

Surgical care lags in Kingdom

There’s just one surgeon for every 88,874 people in Cambodia’s Kampot province, a situation that experts yesterday said was reflected across the Kingdom, and which bodes ill for patients’ access to crucial surgical care.

Medical professionals gathered yesterday for the start of a two-day conference on essential and emergency surgery and anesthesia in an effort to find ways to improve the Kingdom’s woefully inadequate surgical care system.

“In countries like Cambodia, nine out of 10 people are unable to receive life-saving … surgical care,” said Dr Kee Park, a Harvard University Paul Farmer Global Surgery Scholar and Consultant Neurosurgeon at Preah Kossamak Hospital.

The dismal figures for Kampot appear to closely mirror those nationwide. Although several officials with the Ministry of Health couldn’t provide specific statistics on the number of surgeons in Cambodia, Dr Kim Savuon, deputy director for the department of hospital services at the ministry, estimated the figure to be at about 200, not counting specialists, who number around 50, he said.

Training for more surgeons is “urgently needed”, he said.

Lack of access to neurosurgery in particular has become a significant problem. In 2013, about 62 per cent of road accident fatalities succumbed to head injuries, said Bud Hattaway, Asia Regional EMS advisor for Medical Teams International.

In Kampot, however, the province’s seven surgeons are unable to perform operations related to head trauma because there’s no neurosurgeon in the area, said Neak Saroeun, deputy director at Kampot Referral Hospital.

Medical professionals are forced to transfer patients with head injuries more than 140 kilometres away, to Phnom Penh, and of the two ambulances available, only one is currently working, Saroeun said.

“We still face a big, big problem with head injuries,” he said.

Dr Iv Vycheth, president of the Cambodia Society of Neurosurgeons, said his organisation had only 25 members and 14 residents. The majority of the neurosurgeons, 21, are in Phnom Penh, he said, with two in Siem Reap and two in Battambang.

“They are working very hard, especially since head trauma is a major problem” in the country, he said. But the lack of enough surgeons is not the only problem.

More services to help get patients to the appropriate medical facilities need to be strengthened as well, experts said. Availability of surgical equipment is also currently lacking.

Doctors in Kampot don’t have access to a CT scan, Saroeun said. “We have a small budget only for repairs, but no budget to buy new equipment.”

The conference yesterday concluded with plans to form a committee that will work to improve access to surgical care.

MOST VIEWED

  • No payment required for travellers taking rapid Covid tests on arrival

    Ministry of Health officials said there would be no payment required for the rapid Covid-19 tests given to travellers who arrive in Cambodia from November 15 onwards after the quarantine requirement is lifted for fully vaccinated people. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told The Post on

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Police arrest Canadian with 167kg of drugs

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on November 15 placed a Canadian national in pre-trial detention in connection with smuggling and possessing 167kg of illegal drugs. Deputy National Police chief in charge of anti-drug enforcement Mak Chito told The Post on November 15 that the man was arrested