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Better Healthcare, Next Mandate: Minister

[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The "Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This is the first in a two-part series examining the state of Cambodian health care.]

Cambodia's health system remains poor, but in the time since the last general election, the government has worked hard to improve it and hopes to do more in the next term, the nation's top health official said.

Health Minister Nuth Sokhum, a member of the coalition Funcinpec party, said the government was working hard to fix the problems in the health system, building 40 health care centers around Cambodia since the last election and providing additional training to doctors on professional ethics.

The government hoped to do more in the next term, he said, especially to take better care of women and child health issues, he said.

Cambodians in rural areas like Kampong Thom province are not happy with the healthcare they see at the district level. One mother told VOA Khmer the local doctor gave her son an injection without informing her, then impolitely demanded money.

John Saroeun, who works for the health NGO Maristop in the province, said many rural citizens face the same difficulties. Doctors come late for work, leave for an early lunch and take the rest of the day off, he said.

Many people have lost faith in the health care system. Even though doctors have the ability to do their jobs, they are not paid well, forcing them to resort to corruption, Saroeun said.

Despite government promises to improve the situation, competing parties are looking for ways to exploit these health care woes as the election approaches.