Report Calls for Higher Pay for Health Workers

Poor government health care “remains a serious factor of im­poverishment in Cambodia” and an obstacle to economic development, according to a report from Medicam released ahead of next month’s donor meeting.

“Access to affordable quality health services in the public health sector is a crucial factor of poverty reduction, and this can only happen” if salaries of government health workers are raised, the report said.

Lower health care costs would boost investment and spending, which could help stimulate the economy, Medicam said.

A February 2001 report by the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health stated that the average household spends $29 a year on health care.

At 11 percent of gross domestic product, that rate is one of the highest in the world, according to the report.

Low wages and “dramatically” de­layed releases of budgeted funds remain obstacles to improving Cambodia’s public health system, according to Medicam, which serves as an umbrella or­ganization for 130 health NGOs.

For example, only 3 percent of funding for the government’s Priority Action Program, which attempts to streamline and modernize health financing in some provinces, has been released through April of this year, compared to 25 percent in 2001.

The government has said there is not enough money to increase health salaries, but Medicam recommended that the government better balance its budget between running costs and “public staff compensations.”

Drug supplies greatly im­proved in 2001 due to the ministry’s efforts, the report said. Also, construction and renovation of local and provincial health care buildings have extended public health care to 81 percent of the country, although many of the facilities are not in use.

The report also recommended strengthening regulation of the “booming” private health care sector, partly because many prescriptions from private practitioners are “hazardous,” Medicam said.

Previous Medicam position papers have been critical of a lack of budget transparency, underfunding, official corruption and a lack of enforcement of regulations and laws on pharmaceuticals as problems that plague the health sector.


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