Health Minister Mam Bunheng may soon have to provide the National Assembly answers on “irregularities” ranging from the sale of state hospitals, the prevalence of fake medicine and recent cases of malpractice, according to a letter signed by the parliament’s president on Tuesday.
“Please, Samdech Prime Minister [Hun Sen], give permission for His Excellency Mam Bunheng to show up and answer questions in person again at the National Assembly on Thursday,” the letter said.
Health Minister Mam Bunheng speaks at the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Li Bin, the minister of China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, on Tuesday afternoon in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)Signed by Assembly President Heng Samrin, the letter lists a variety of “irregularities” to be addressed during questioning.
At the top of the list is a massive bribery case alleged in 2013 by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, over which Mr. Bunheng was summoned to the Assembly last year. In that case, health officials who have since left their positions were found to have taken more than $450,000 in bribes from overseas mosquito net suppliers in exchange for $12 million worth of contracts.
The government later said it repaid the funds taken by National Malaria Center director Duong Socheat, but the Anti-Corruption Unit claimed it could not prosecute Mr. Socheat because the case fell outside of its purview.
The Assembly will also question Mr. Bunheng over the government’s sale of hospitals, as doctors and NGOs decried the loss of Chamkar Mon referral hospital, a free public women’s and children’s health facility that closed three years ago and reopened this year as a bank.
Other topics up for discussion include a proposal to increase inspections of doctors, the preponderance of fake or poor-quality drugs on the market and subpar care and facilities at state-run health centers.
Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said she would personally raise three recent cases of gross malpractice, including a woman who died after receiving a breast implant at the De Beaute Clinic in Phnom Penh.
Mr. Bunheng could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay said the session was necessary given the dire condition of Cambodia’s health care services.
“In general, the health sector is very bad because doctors lie to patients or make them feel scared,” he said. “The management is incapable and makes mistakes.”
When it came to corruption, Mr. Bunheng either needed to accept responsibility or start punishing offending doctors and health care officials, Mr. Chhay said.
“If his inferiors were the ones who handled it, why did they get no punishment?” he asked.
Mr. Hun Sen regularly travels to Singapore for checkups.
Separately, Mr. Bunheng signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday with Li Bin, the minister of China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, agreeing to cooperate on health, maternal and child care, technical training, study exchange, and research and training.
odom@cambodiadaily.com
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