Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Distinguished local and International Guests
Today, I am delighted to attend the closing of this important 36th Health Conference held for the last two days. Indeed, this conference has provided all of us a chance to review the achievements, opportunities and challenges to work together on formulating and implementing the new action plan in consistency with the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals (CMDGs) in the health sector, setting priority areas to be implemented in 2015 and setting direction for the coming years to achieve success and ensure the fruitful outcome and prosperity for our society.
In sum, as raised in the annual health report of His Excellency Mr. Mam Bun Heng, Minister of Health, many health indicators have been improved especially the decline of maternal and child mortality rates. At the same time, physical health infrastructure and health service delivery have been significantly expanded and strengthened. For instance, new health centers and referral hospitals as well as maternal service, emergency service, newborn care service and other public health intervention service have become more comprehensive and been moved closer to the people, especially in rural areas.
This good progress in the expansion of physical health infrastructure and health service coverage is the main contributor to rapid decline in maternal and infant mortality rates, as well as the decline in fatality rates caused by AIDS, tuberculosis and increased life expectancy of the people. These achievements enable Cambodia to achieve health targets set in the CMDGs 2015 ahead of schedule. This is another pride and achievement in Cambodia’s effort to bring about socio-economic development after overcoming countless obstacles and challenges to redevelop the health system after lagging behind caused by the nearly-three-decade civil war. Currently, the accessibility to modern health service like other advanced countries has been improved, thanks to full peace, political stability, robust economic growth, openness to foreign investors and enhanced living standards. These factors attract international hospitals to invest in Cambodia, in addition to the modernization of our own hospitals.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to express high appreciation to the leadership, civil servants and health personnel of the health sector for the concerted effort to improve health education, consultation, treatment and care for everyone in the community and those who seek service from health centers, health posts and referral hospitals nationwide, especially the provision of health service at village-commune level. At the same time, I would like to express my sincere thanks our health partners for providing both technical and financial assistance and the capital/provincial, municipal/district/khan and commune/sangkat administration for providing cooperation and support to implementation of action plans of health sector in 2014.
It is true that the achievements and progress in the health sector cannot happen without technical and financial contribution from friend countries, development partners, local and international non-government organization and the private sector. This contribution is indeed vital for ensuring public welfare, development and sustainability of the health sector in Cambodia. At the same time, the Royal Government of Cambodia has given more attention to coverage expansion and quality improvement of health service through improving the attitude of service provider, ensuring enough budget for sufficient and timely supply of health equipment and facilities, strengthening skills and capacity of health personnel, improving the supply of medicines, and strengthening health information system and so on.
Indeed, the main objective not only promotes public confidence and people’s support to the Royal Government and the health sector, but also helps enhance the prestige of the Kingdom of Cambodia in the region and the world.
The Royal government of Cambodia has considered the health sector the core of socio-economic development as this sector is another pillar of the education sector in enhancing the quality of Cambodia’s human resource in the context of ASEAN economic integration and globalization. In this regard, the Rectangular Strategy-Phase III of the Royal government of Cambodia has determined a number of priorities that will receive heightened attention:(1) developing and improving health sector policies and strategies, strengthening and improving regulatory framework especially for private health service, promoting good governance, strengthening the capacity of health institutions at all levels, enhancing awareness among doctors, health workers and service users about the rights of service users, promoting partnership with the private sector in delivering health service, encouraging community participation in the development of health sector; (2)promoting equitable access to health service through the expansion of the equity fund and payment scheme for the poor and development of health insurance in line with socio-economic development status to promote the welfare of the people by protecting them from the risk of excessive health spending; and (3) further enhancing the quality of health service through strengthening clinical techniques and the management capacity of doctors, medical staff and health officials by focusing on (a) improved quality of basic training, advanced and specialized training, (b) strengthened enforcement of professional ethics, (c) deployment of more doctors, pharmacists, dentists, mid-wives, nurses and medical assistants to all public health establishments, especially in rural areas.
In addition, to achieve the target of health sector development, we must step up the implementation of “Health Strategic Plan” which aims at developing a credible and inclusive health system by focusing on good governance, efficient use of resources, improvement of health service quality, equitable access to health service, skill proficiency of medical staff, especially professional ethics of health personnel. This is our ambition to develop this sector that must be firmly and continuously implemented.
Along with the above mentioned progress, there are a number of challenges which hinder the health service delivery such as rapid population growth, fragmented and unorganized settlement patterns, limited capacity to provide maternity, emergency and new-born care services, limited clinic’s diagnosis capacity, disease surveillance and monitoring system not fully integrated into the health information system, limited institutional capacity to use technology in the systematic work and the outbreak of new epidemic diseases and so on. In this spirit, we must step up investment in this sector to strengthen medical technologies and health information system, especially data recording and collection system at all levels of health service providers nationwide in order to timely respond to the demand of our people and help enable medical staff to use the information for the improvement of health service.
Overall, this two-day conference has provided us with new ideas about the work to be implemented in 2015 and priorities for coming years. During my participation in previous health conferences, I always raised some recommendations for promoting and developing the health sector. However, as situation keeps evolving, new needs and challenges emerge. In this sense, I would like to raise some recommendations to further strengthen and expand the health service and increase public confidence in the sector as follows:
1. Strengthening the regulation of private healthcare providers to ensure their business operation is conducted in compliance with laws and the regulatory framework and based on professional ethics and genuine medical qualification. Currently, we notice widespread growth of all types of private healthcare providers in all areas. This requires the Ministry of Health to strengthen its regulatory framework by improving the capacities of its monitoring officials and justice police officers of the Ministry of Health and increasing cooperation with relevant institutions and authorities at both national and sub-national level to ensure that private health service providers are the reliable option of health service, in short, quality and reliable health service.
2. Improving both public and private health services especially on the quality of medical consultation, disease diagnosis, treatment and care which require further attention from the Ministry of Health. In this connection, the Ministry has to firmly and continuously take actions and cooperate with relevant ministries/institutions to ensure the quality of health care service. Overall, providing health service of poor or subpar quality that does not meet the required medical standards not only wastes the state and individual resources, but also put the life of patients at risk. More seriously, this kind of service has destroyed public confidence in the national health system and transformed it into an unreliable system. Therefore, further effort to ensure the quality and medical standards of health service must be undertaken and all health service activities must be thoroughly reviewed.
3. Paying attention to strengthening the quality of medical and health science education at both public and private sectors to ensure that after graduation, doctors, pharmacists, dentists, nurses, midwives etc., are fully competent for their jobs and can provide effective and reliable medical service of required standards. Meanwhile, it is necessary to create continued training and retraining programs to polish professional competencies, knowledge and operational ability of health officials. The swift technological evolution and information network connection have brought about change in all sectors, including the health sector, especially the new trend of heightened attention to health. In this sense, training is the critical starting point in order to achieve a good health system, particularly in the current context, which requires heightened professional ethics, patience and attention to the poor.
4. Improving professional competencies and mindset of health officials and medical staff on medical conduct, professional ethics and communication attitude, especially with the people, to build public trust. I believe that trust and confidence from patients and family is very helpful in treatment and heath care.
5. Regularly and systematically monitoring and evaluating the quality of services including those provided by private sector to ensure compliance with the required quality standards and timely taking actions to rectify the problem in order to make health service more accessible and to gain trust from patients. Meanwhile, we must ensure that “all hospitals, provincial hospitals, health centers have doctors or medical staff standing by all days, all hours and all time including weekends and public holidays” to make sure that regular services are provided including check-up, nurse and treatment for patients as well as to promote the implementation of this work rigorously in accordance with procedures and health professional ethics.
6. Ministry of Health needs to pay more attention to finding the root cause of all of issues mentioned in the Health Sector Achievement Report 2014 and shall solve all those issues effectively and sustainably in a systematic way.
I hope that what I have mentioned above will become additional inputs for helping achieve the 2015 direction set by the conference. In this sense, even though tremendous opportunities lie ahead, I wish to request all colleagues to convert views raised in the conference into actual and effective implementation to help bring about more fruitful socio-economic outcome for entire Cambodia.
Before closing this conference, I wish to express my appreciation and gratitude to all the participants for attending the conference and contributing ideas, knowledge, concepts and useful experiences to make this conference successful and fruitful. At the same time, I would like to call on all the participants to convert all the recommendations, information, knowledge and experiences gained from this conference into vigorous activities within respective organizations to realize more achievement in the future. In this sense, I strongly believe that Cambodia will continue moving forward with optimism, development and prosperity by relying on a broader, more efficient and favorable base while welfare, confidence and professional health service are ensured to help bring about social harmony and sustainable development.
Finally, along with the closing of“36th Health Conference” I wish Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished national and international guests and whole conference the four gems of Buddhist blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Healthiness and Strength!