Hundreds of unlicensed dental businesses must register with the Ministry of Health or shut down, ministry officials warned this week.
While several top-end dental clinics in Cambodia meet international standards of care, officials said the majority of the nation’s approximately 1,500 dental offices remain unregistered, unmonitored and even hazardous.
“Unlicensed clinics will be shut down after the election. We cannot take action right now for fear that those clinics will accuse us of shutting them down due to political motivations,” Ministry of Health Undersecretary of State Hem Chhin said by telephone Tuesday.
“If we find there are unlicensed clinics…the ministry will take legal action against those clinics,” he said.
Unlicensed dental clinics pose a danger to the nation, as many lack proper sterilization and pass on infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis, Hem Chhin said.
Along with formal registration of their clinics, he said the law requires each dental clinic to be overseen by a dentist with formal education.
The National Dental Council, which was created by royal decree in 2006 with the aim of centralizing and licensing all of the nation’s dental clinics, will lead the crackdown, Hem Chhin said. The NDC will notify all clinics of the requirement to register both with the NDC and the Health Ministry.
NDC registration involves a $50 annual fee, and the Ministry of Health license costs between $40 and $150 depending on the size of the clinic, said Hak Sithan, head of the Oral Health Office inside the Health Ministry’s Department of Preventative Medicine.
However, fewer than half of Phnom Penh’s 500 dental clinics are licensed with the Health Ministry, said Hak Sithan, and it’s a far smaller percentage of the nation’s approximately 1,500 dental clinics.
The NDC, however, still only has about 50 member dentists, Hem Chhin said, adding that this reflects the nation’s largely unmonitored dental industry.
“To manage all dental clinics, the [NDC] plans to ask those clinics with more than four chairs to get licenses at the Health Ministry and those small clinics to get licenses at the health department in their municipalities or provinces,” he said by telephone Tuesday.
Some dentists lament the fees, graft and formalities involved in the license and registration process, saying it fosters the unregulated dental industry.
Unlicensed dental repairer Tieng Yeng said he opened his two-chair dental clinic in 1993 in Kampot province’s Kompong Bay district.
He said Health Ministry officials visited his clinic in 2006 to inform him of the new law that all unlicensed clinics would be closed.
But two years later, Tieng Yeng, who learned dentistry from his father and has no formal training, said he still isn’t worried about losing his business.
By the time the law gets around to closing down his dental clinic, Tieng Yeng said one of his three daughters will have graduated from university with a degree in dentistry and will be able to register his clinic for him.
“I do not believe that the law will apply immediately or will be able to persuade unlicensed clinics to register with the ministry,” he said by telephone Wednesday.