Healthcare sector takes strides amid major jump in coverage

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Medical nurses at Char Chhouk Health Centre posing for a photo in 2018. FB

With healthy people identified by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng as the “core of economic and social development”, the expansion of healthcare infrastructure continues to move forward with health service coverage consequently increasing to unprecedented levels over the past decade.

Cambodia has also achieved the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals ahead of time in relation to health care. However, the ongoing promotion of the health and well-being of Cambodians remains a high priority on the agenda of the government’s social and economic policies and political programme.

Bun Heng further stated that the resources developed over the past years until now for strengthening the national healthcare system and especially strengthening the referral hospital and health centre infrastructure has been able to maintain the sustainability provision of essential healthcare services and created a health system more capable of responding to people’s healthcare needs with quality services that are safe and equitably available.

At the end of 2021, the guidelines on “methods of evaluation and accreditation of model health centres” were issued by the government.

The document gives clear guidelines for the evaluation committee for public service facilities in the capital and provinces to fulfil its role as an evaluator for its jurisdiction while also providing technical assistance to health centres in preparation for participation in competitions as well.

In 2017, the health ministry and the Ministry of Economy and Finance and other relevant institutions organised assessments for model health centres in which five health centres were evaluated and given a national rating of number one to number and 17 other health centres were ranked number one in their provinces.

On May 9, 2022, three ministers – finance minister Aun Pornmoniroth, health minister Bun Heng and civil service minister Prum Sokha – signed a decision to designate health centres as public service facilities for the evaluation and accreditation of model public service centres in the health sector for 2022.

This was done according to the inter-ministerial prakas on the evaluation and accreditation of the model public service facilities for the health sector.

After his health centre was ranked first at the national level in 2017, the director of Char Chhouk Health Centre in Siem Reap’s Angkor Chum district, Meas Dara, told The Post that he was proud of achieving the number one ranking.

He said that the first assessment was on the quality of health care service and at that time the health ministry had not yet issued a standard procedure or methods for evaluation, but now in 2022 the ministry announced another round of assessments with clearer guidelines.

“For 2022, I am not sure whether to join the contest again or not, because we have just recovered from the fight against Covid-19 and our health centre is lacking in financial resources compared to what we had before, thus we are worried that we will not be able to win,” he added.

He noted that Char Chhouk Health Centre has been less profitable during the pandemic and it has seen fewer patients because so many people were avoiding going to the doctor or getting medical treatment out of fear of Covid-19 for the past two years.

“Some of health care services in our health centre in 2019-2020 and last year seemed to be declining because we reassigned people to fight against Covid-19 and less people came in for treatment, but in 2022 the number of people seeking medical treatment seems to be on the rise after the Covid-19 situation was relieved,” he said.

Char Chhouk Health Centre is about 60 km from Siem Reap town and 4 km from the nearest referral hospital. The centre provides healthcare service such as antenatal check-ups, child delivery, vaccinations and treatment for non-communicable diseases, among others, but for critical illnesses patients are always referred to the provincial hospital.

Khuy Samnang, the director of Buor Health Centre in Battambang’s Sampov Loun district – which won second place at the national level in 2017 – also did not intend to join the 2022 contest because he was not ready to participate in the assessment because a lot of work still needed to be done after Covid-19 to recover from the disruption it caused.

“If we had enough time to prepare according to the instructions, we would join the assessment again, but we have just gotten past Covid-19 so there is a lot of work to be done and looking at the assessment’s requirements, we afraid that we’re not able to be competitive yet,” he said.

Buor Health Centre is 88 km from Battambang town and many people go there to receive healthcare services because they provide everything except for major surgery and hospitalisation for those in critical condition.

Samnang added that the assessments focused on quality, clean environment, preventing contamination. So the facility’s aesthetics must be nice and the health centre’s records for the past 10 years must be in order along with many other requirements.

On June 21, Youk Bunna, acting minister at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, informed all capital and provincial governors about the evaluation and accreditation for model public service facilities in the education and health sectors for 2022.

“In 2022, the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Health have decided to make secondary and primary schools its target facilities for evaluation and accreditation as model public service centres in education and also health centres for the health sector,” he said.

According to Bunna, the capital and provincial governors must pass along this information to the public service provider facilities and they would be accepting applications from the first week of July for 30 days.

Only two candidate facilities at each level will be submitted the assessment at the capital and provincial level no later than the fourth week of August.

The capital and provincial administrations needed to evaluate and select the candidates represent their health centres with two facilities at each level to the national public service unit evaluation committee located at the Ministry of Public Works no later than the second week of October.

“[The capital and provincial administrations] must cooperate with the Ministry of Public Works’ working group and the inter-ministerial technical committee of national public service centres evaluation committee in carrying out the tasks related to the evaluation and accreditation of the model public service facilities in the health sector,” said Bunna

At the same time, Mam Bun Heng also encouraged all health staff to continue providing healthcare services to the people in new ways to ensure the improvement of the health and well-being of the people.

According to the list of criteria for evaluation and accreditation of the model health centres, there are eight major criteria to be evaluated, with a total score of 705, such as public service standards for 103 points, standards or norms for providing public services in health sector for health centres for 240 points, public financial management in the unit for 80 points and the management of human resource development in the unit for 75 points.

Organising and improving the facility’s environment is good for 100 points, good relations with people, communities and development partners, as well as joint evaluation from public service users is worth 50 points, solving challenges with people, authorities and communities can net 25 points and new initiatives and innovations to make the facility work better can earn 15 points.