Minister of Health Hong Sun Hout says he wants more public hospitals in Phnom Penh in order to reduce the cost of health care in the city.
He spoke amid reports that Preah Ket Mealea might be switched from a military hospital to a public or private facility.
Phnom Penh has an estimated population of 1.2 million. There are eight state-run hospitals and 20 legal medical clinics, said Veng Thai, director of health for Phnom Penh municipality. He said he supports moving military patients to a new site outside the city.
‘’If the government can change Ket Mealea into a state-run hospital like Calmette, it would be a good way to raise the pay for doctors at Ket Mealea,” he said.
Calmette Hospital, run by the government in a joint venture with French doctors and with financial support from the French government, charges higher rates for rooms and services, allowing it to pay its staff higher wages.
Heng Taikry, director-general of Calmette Hospital, said new hospitals might not be a good idea if they can’t afford to provide modern service and equipment, sanitary conditions and well-trained doctors.
“The most important thing to a patient is quality,” he said. “Hospitals are easy to build, but not easy to keep working properly. And only about 10 percent of patients in Phnom Penh have enough money to pay their medical bills.
“I used to operate my own private hospital, but I lost the business. Believe me, a private hospital will be a loser.”
Heng Taikry said he has heard that Chinese and Italian business groups have each shown interest in acquiring Preah Ket Mealea. But he said that he couldn’t believe a private company would buy the buildings, which are more than 100 years old.
Hong Sun Hout said Phnom Penh “should have as many hospitals as possible.” He said health care was too expensive for the average resident and that there was a shortage of equipment and trained medical personnel.
He estimated that 90 percent of medical problems could be handled adequately by Phnom Penh hospitals, but that the most serious 10 percent of cases needed to be transferred to Thailand or Vietnam.