The Minister of Health responded to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s critique of his ministry Monday, saying the premier’s public assault on reported corruption in the ministry’s ranks was a welcome suggestion aimed at improving provincial health care.
Speaking at the opening of a new HIV/AIDS clinic Friday, Hun Sen said provincial health centers are suffering a lack of personnel, as many doctors are bribing their way out of mandatory provincial assignments to seek more lucrative urban positions. Hun Sen blamed the Ministry of Health for failing to ensure adequate care across the country.
The drainage is crippling health care in rural areas, where health centers often close their doors for lack of medical personnel.
“I am pleased [with] the words he said,” Health Minister Nuth Sokhom said. “[Hun Sen] encouraged us to find out appropriate ways in moving our staff.”
A few graduates rely on their connections to “high-ranking officials” to ensure better placements, Nuth Sokhom said.
“This is just to remind us to be careful of intervention from those officials,” he said.
Graduating doctors are required to spend five years working in rural health centers or hospitals, Nuth Sokhom said.
But with the average monthly salary for state-funded doctors at roughly $30 to $35 per month, and that of contracted health workers only $10 to $15, many eschew service in remote areas in favor of assignments in towns and cities, which offer opportunities for supplementary income, he said.
In his speech, Hun Sen agreed to the ministry’s request that the government recognize contracted health workers as civil servants, ensuring a slightly elevated and relatively more consistent salary, Nuth Sokhom said.
“For public servants, [the salary is] also late, but not as late as contracted staff,” he said.
Banteay Meanchey provincial health department director Chhum Vannarith said on Monday that a planned hospital on the Thai border has been delayed for lack of qualified and willing medical staff.
“The main problem is human resources,” he said.