The Trouble With Cambodia’s Health System

The poor state of the country’s healthcare system remains a major issue.

This month, the Cambodian government made clear that “fake news” about Prime Minister Hun Sen’s death on Facebook would be treated as a criminal matter, following yet another trip by him to Singapore for medical treatment. Seeking care overseas is common for some of the country’s wealthy elite. But for regular Cambodians, the country’s own healthcare system is the only choice they have to address their issues.

Amid the focus on many other headline developments, including Cambodia’s alignments with China and the United States, the state of the country’s healthcare system is often not explored in depth, particularly among international outlets. But periodic crises tend to point to the issues therein, and the most recent one is the ongoing dengue epidemic hitting Cambodia.

The director of Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals, a network of charitable hospitals, has said that as of July 1 his hospitals in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have seen 30 children, out of more than 16,000 dengue fever patients, die from the virus this year. In more rural areas, hospitals are showing signs that they cannot handle the influx of patients. The Cambodian Red Cross had to set up tents around one referral hospital in Stung Treng province because of a shortage of beds. To the news of hospitals being unable to cope with the dengue crisis, Ou Virak, president of the Future Forum think-tank, tweeted: “Very alarming and a national emergency. Our health care system is broken and the poor are paying the heaviest price.”

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