Clinic-Closure Order Temporarily Halted

Foreign-owned private health clinics have been given at least a temporary reprieve from a shutdown order sent by the Ministry of Health last week, Ministry of Health Secretary of State Ung Phyrun said Tuesday.

“We are trying to work with them to keep them open. A number of them have come back to fulfill the conditions,” he said.

The ministry claimed in a June 11 letter to the municipal government that 63 Chinese, Vietnam­ese and European-owned clinics do not comply with a medical practices law signed by King Norodom Sihanouk in Novem­ber. The letter requested “crackdown action” from police to close the clinics.

Under the new regulations, according to Ung Phyrun, clinics must be owned by Cambodians, have at least 20 patient beds and have a medical staff of at least 80 percent Cambodians.

But he said last week that foreign doctors with a lot of expertise could gain exceptions. There is no provision in the law that specifically prohibits a foreigner from opening a private clinic.

Diplomats protested the order immediately, and Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara said he heard from US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

According to Ung Phyrun, Hun Sen has asked the ministry to determine which clinics are needed because of the quality health care they offer to foreigners working in Cambodia.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers manager Senaka Fernando said one reason his company does business here is that medical care meeting international standards is available.

“We have to consider the effect on investment and how Cam­bodia will attract private investment,” he said. “This [order] is not helpful.

“But we have had assurances from people in the government that it would not happen and that is a good thing. The principle idea may have been to register clinics. But they should target only those they need to target.”

Ung Phyrun said he recently instructed staff from International SOS—which serves US embassy employees—and Naga Medical Center to meet government demands. Both clinics had been designated for closing.

International SOS has not yet renewed its license with the ministry, a clinic employee said Tuesday. He said SOS has been assured they will not be closed.

Ung Phyrun said a few private clinics have been shut down, but he would not say how many.

Chea Sophara said the municipality has not shut down any clinics. The issue will eventually be brought before the Council of Ministers, Chea Sophara said.

The regulations also require foreign doctors to present a professional certificate approved by their embassy to the ministry. A copy of their criminal record from their home country and a letter from the Ministry of In­terior stating the length of their visas must also be filed.

Ung Phyrun said last week that the new regulations are meant in part to provide job opportunities to Cambodian doctors.


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