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Workers in the Entertainment Industry Happy to Start Receiving Free Healthcare

PHNOM PENH: The Royal Government of Cambodia has implemented socialized health care through the Health Equity Fund system for individuals working in the informal tourism economy. The move is particularly beneficial to women working in bars, karaoke clubs, massage parlors and spas who will receive free healthcare in an industry where it is desperately needed.

The program kicked off with a two-day sign-up campaign at Wat Phnom on August 11. Workers from two districts were able to register and receive their Health Equity Fund cards for immediate use at any public hospital, in addition to being provided with information on relevant health services.

EAC News had the chance to speak with some of the recipients of the new health benefits, who were grateful for the government initiative.

Nhib Srey Lin was waiting for the registration interview and said that the program will ease her financial burden and give her more peace of mind in regards to her own health, as she’ll now be able to get free medical check-ups. "This is good to help a lot of people. They can go to the hospital and everything [examination/treatment]. I thank the government for being able to help so many people,” she said.

Hoeun Chiva, a 28-year-old widow with two children who works in the entertainment industry, was happy to receive her equity card, which comes at a time when she is struggling to financially support her family. Not having to worry about the added cost of medical check-ups is a big relief. "[It’s] the happiest feeling,” she said. “It will be easy for us to go to the doctor…going to the hospital is not just 10,0000 Riels or 20,0000 Riels; it costs hundreds of dollars. But having the card is very good. It helps health as well. ”

She thanked the government for providing the equity card. "[It helps] women like me, widows who have no money to go to the hospital. We are paid very little money for our work. It’s not enough to pay for the house," she said. "I thank the government very much for helping."

Secretary-General of the National Council for Social Protection, Chan Narith, emphasized that unlike other healthcare programs, those eligible for free healthcare will not be charged a monthly fee and that the Health Equity Fund is a national gesture of goodwill.

"The target group of people who work in the adult tourism services of the informal economy are not obliged to pay. This is a health care system that is fully supported by the national budget for benefits to the people," he said.

Representing the Ministry of Planning at the event was Theng Pagnathun, who said that the equity card is very important for individuals working in the informal entertainment economy who will now be able to receive healthcare, freeing up a larger portion of their earnings.

"Their income is small. If we do not give them this equity card, as in the past, then they will have to pay more if they have to go to the doctor for a health concern. Now that they have a card, it can help a lot; a large portion of the money they earn, can be used for other purposes," he said.

Tin Molika will also be receiving an equity card and expressed excitement and gratitude to the Royal Government for taking care of its people, especially when it comes to the welfare of the poor.

"I am happy that the government has helped poor women who get sick [go to the hospital] without spending money,” she said. “I thank the government for helping the poor who can now go to the hospital without running out of money."

Women working in the entertainment services are being prioritized in the Cambodian People’s Party policies for the 7th mandate, which was affirmed in last month’s election. At the CPP’s Extraordinary General Assembly of the National Representatives on January 7, CPP President, Prime Minister Hun Sen, introduced the idea of granting the equity card to alleviate the difficulties of women who work in all entertainment services.

He also appointed DPM Men Sam An as the president of the Women's Protection Association, which aims to assist women in the informal entertainment economy. Subsequently, he made the wives of each provincial governor head of their respective provincial branches of the association.

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