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Vandine: Medical Tourism a Common Practice Worldwide

Vandine, the Ministry of Health senior official of Cambodia, defended the practice of seeking medical services overseas, stating that it is a personal choice made by citizens in every nation, including developed countries like Japan, the US, and France. Vandine made these remarks during the inauguration of a Japanese hospital in response to criticisms of the Cambodian healthcare system.

She highlighted that the number of Cambodians traveling abroad for medical services should not be seen as a weakness in the local healthcare system. Even in countries with advanced economies and high-quality healthcare, such as Japan, the US, and France, their citizens also opt for medical services outside their own countries.

Vandine emphasized that the decision to seek medical treatment abroad is a matter of personal choice, and restricting people’s options is not considered. She further explained that the Ministry of Health licenses private sector operators to provide medical services to Cambodian citizens in order to offer effective alternatives to the public, as the private sector has become a dominant force in the healthcare sector.

Sok Chan Udom, deputy technical director at Sok Chea Dental Clinic in Phnom Penh, supported Vandine’s statements, mentioning that the clinic frequently serves clients from abroad, particularly Cambodian expatriates residing in countries like the US, France, New Zealand, and Australia. He attributed the popularity of their services to the trust in their clinic’s quality and cost advantages compared to developed countries.

Vandine also highlighted the challenges faced by Cambodia in rebuilding its health sector after the devastating Pol Pot regime. The country had to start from scratch, and the development of healthcare facilities has been a gradual process. Private hospitals, clinics, and medical centers have played a crucial role in providing more options for the public.

According to a report from the Ministry of Health, numerous licenses have been granted to private investors for the establishment of hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. Additionally, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, many Cambodians traveled abroad, including for medical purposes, with popular destinations being Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, China, India, and South Korea.

During the pandemic, local healthcare and medical services have gained increased consumer confidence, with Prime Minister Hun Sen frequently emphasizing the quality of the Kingdom’s healthcare system.

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