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Vandine: Health ministry went from 100 officials in 1979 to 28,000 today

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Medical workers taking part in the Covid-19 vaccination campaign in Tonle Bassac commune of the capital’s Chamkarmon district in 2021. Heng Chivoan

Vandine: Health ministry went from 100 officials in 1979 to 28,000 today

The Ministry of Health is continuing its long-term mission of reforming and developing the healthcare sector in Cambodia to help the people live healthy lives. The ministry started out with just over 100 officials and experts in 1979 and has increased to more than 28,000 officials today.

Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine highlighted the ministry’s long-term vision for the Kingdom at a September 15 press conference on the ministry’s achievements over the past five years.

She said the health sector has now taken further steps towards reforms that have been carried out continuously since 1996.

“We have laid out our national health strategic policy. We are now finalising the third phase of the policy and working on development, as well as finalising our national health strategic policy for phase IV,” she added.

She continued that the most important work to be done in the health sector, apart from considering the infrastructure, is supply medical equipment and medicine because they are necessary tools for medical teams. In addition to infrastructure and supply of medicines and other medical materials, the most pressing job the ministry has to attend to is training better human resources

Vandine said that after the liberation of the country from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime on January 7, 1979, there was a special team of staff, officers, professors and doctors that formed the first ministry, numbering more than 100 people.

Later, the ministry also organised the training of a new team to become doctors, pharmacists and dentists. They also trained nurses and midwives and other lesser-known technicians that are now key to the modern healthcare sector.

“So far, what we have in our hands today is more than 28,000 civil servants, technicians, doctors and nurses, all working in the health sector,” she added.

Vandine stated that in the next 20-30 years, they must place more importance on the participation of individuals, communities and families in their healthcare.

“Our goal is to live a healthy life. Once we are healthy, our lives will be long,” she added.

In a report, the ministry said it launched a system to monitor and improve the quality of healthcare in 2017 by evaluating health departments in the capital and provinces throughout the country on a quarterly basis.

“Results show that average quality scores in both health centres and referral hospitals reached about a 40 per cent rating in 2017 but were up to 80 per cent by 2021,” it said.

The report added that as of July 2022, the number of public health facilities nationwide has increased steadily – with 1,283 health centres, 117 health posts and 129 referral hospitals. The ministry has also built 103 new health centres and hospitals.

Separately, ministry secretary of state York Sambath responded to criticism of “poor” health services in Cambodia, saying that when the pandemic arrived, no one could travel abroad for care as an option and they needed to access existing services, whether public or private.

“I have told them many times that going abroad to receive treatment is a choice that individuals must make for themselves. We cannot force them to stay. If they make that choice, they can continue to receive treatment in another country, but many patients are satisfied and confident in the treatment provided at our hospitals,” she added.

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