Jul 21 2011

Going to the doctor in Phnom Penh

Published by at 12:30 pm under Health & safety

Seeing a doctor in a foreign country can be an overwhelming experience. Medical care in Cambodia is generally awful — marginally less so in Phnom Penh — but at the same time, travellers often have lots of reasons to see a doctor in Cambodia.

Two important components of Cambodian medical care: Angkor beer and U-Care Pharmacy.

Just some of the reasons a traveller may need to see a doctor in Cambodia: traffic accidents (be prepared); dengue fever, which is all over town at the moment; sexually-transmitted infections, which occur more frequently than many in Phnom Penh may admit. Others, like yours truly, may wake up one morning with a nasty staph infection, which is like, totally not fair (photos available on request).

One thing to be aware of is that while local doctors are less expensive, most have not had the sort of medical training that most Westerners would deem sufficient. Consider this: in 2008 prospective medical students took to the streets because Phnom Penh’s University of Medicine refused to admit any student that scored less than 50% of their entrance exam. Under pressure, the school ended up admitting all students who scored over 25% — not awfully reassuring. And because the educational system is so flawed, one can never be sure whether a doctor — or indeed any other professional — got their diplomas and positions through connections or “tea money”. It’s not surprising, then, that locals who can afford it head directly to Bangkok when they need treatment.

Monkey slurping blood from a huge syringe found in a bin outside a Wat Phnom clinic.

My advice? See a foreign doctor or a Khmer doctor who has a degree from a foreign university. I’ve heard way too many horror stories from even the best clinics and hospitals in town to chance it.

Because medications are sold over the counter in Cambodia, you can also do a pretty decent job diagnosing yourself. I know one long-term expat who takes a round of antibiotics “just in case” every six months or so. While this isn’t advisable (it builds resistance), if you’ve just got the sniffles, head to the pharmacy yourself. Two reputable pharmacies in town are the U-Care chain and Pharmacie De La Gare on Monivong Blvd. Other pharmacies may be cheaper, but you’re liable to get counterfeit medications.

If your self-diagnosis has failed, a few decent doctors are in town. Dr Gavin Scott is a British doctor who runs the Traveller’s Medical Clinic on Street 108. Dr Scott specialises in tropical diseases and sexual diseases, so if you’re worried you may have picked up one or the other, he’s the man to see. He’s also great for interesting banter and medical horror stories. Consultations cost $50 and lab fees are extra. Others recommend the SOS clinic on Street 51, an internationally accredited clinic that offers 24-hour medical care. To see a foreign doctor at SOS costs $80 — $24 more than to see a Khmer doctor. I’ve heard lots of recent complaints about the Khmer medical staff (sorry, beating a dead horse here) at SOS, so be wary. For routine gynaecological care, the expat choice in town is Dr Galina at the Naga Clinic. Appointments with her cost $30.

For lab tests, Pasteur Institute on Monivong is the only reliable independent lab in town.

And if all else fails, head to Bangkok or Singapore. You do have travel insurance, don’t you?

Travellers Medical Clinic
No. 88, St. 108 (Wat Phnom Quarter), Phnom Penh
T: (o23) 306 802/ (012) 898 981

International SOS
House 161, Street 51, Phnom Penh
T: (012) 816 911

Naga Clinic
#11 Street 254, Phnom Penh
T:(023) 211 300

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17 responses so far

17 Responses to “Going to the doctor in Phnom Penh”

  1. Rowanon 21 Jul 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Great Advice
    After living in Phnom Penh is go to SOS and if they prescribe antibiotics take them and finish the dose – the general food safety is appalling in Cambodia and the bugs are very agressive. There was a new hospital being built about a year ago in Toul Kork, Phnom Penh supposedly international standard. Not sure if it is finished yet.
    In Siem Reap go to the Royal Angkor International Hospital – outrageously expensive but very good.
    Alternatively many Khmers go to Vietnam cheaper and they say more reliable.
    Best idea dont get sick.

  2. khmericanon 22 Jul 2011 at 12:26 am

    great post! anyone have a list of recommended basic insurance plans?

  3. Linaon 22 Jul 2011 at 10:46 pm

    I am using an Aetna Global Benefits plan and have heard good things about them from others.

  4. rachelon 29 Jul 2011 at 6:50 am

    What about indigenous medicine? Or has it been destroyed?

  5. Linaon 29 Jul 2011 at 2:13 pm

    The locals seem to prefer large bags of prescription medications, the more the better. They believe that if they do not have a large number of medications–and preferably in a variety of colors–they will not get better.

    Other options are cupping, scraping and occasionally burning with cigarettes but I have no faith.

  6. rachelon 20 Aug 2011 at 6:58 am

    That’s how I feel about supplements-the more the better. In a wet, humid environment one would be more susceptible to various funguses. Coconut has anti viral and anti bacterial properties.

    It must be nice to live in a place where you don’t have to see great numbers of morbidly obese folks waddling around. I’m always struck by how slim and attractive the Ethiopians are here, eating in the Ethiopian restaurants, compared with the gigantic African Americans chowing down at MCDonald’s.

    I often see people at the Y with the marks of cupping on their backs. I have no desire to try it. I stave off injection with six caps of astragulus each day and several grams of Vitamin C. Sugar creates a more fertile environment for infection.

  7. Cindyon 06 Sep 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Are there actually Ethiopian restaurants in Phnom Penh? Where are they located? I’m dying for a fix!

  8. Lina Goldbergon 06 Sep 2011 at 10:58 pm

    @Cindy, not sure what that has to do with going to the doctor, but I only know of two Africa restaurants in Phnom Penh, and both are west African (Nigerian, I think).

  9. Cindyon 07 Sep 2011 at 12:08 am

    Thanks Lina, but I was referring to the comment Rachel made in the post above mine:

    “…. attractive the Ethiopians are here, eating in the Ethiopian restaurants, …”

    I guess I just misunderstood her.

  10. Lina Goldbergon 07 Sep 2011 at 12:10 am

    Oops, sorry. I didn’t see that comment! There aren’t Ethiopian restaurants in Phnom Penh, as far as I know.

  11. […] and to party – but don't forget to take care of yourself while you are here! I've already covered what to do if you get sick in Cambodia, but today I'll cover everyone's favourite topic – sexual […]

  12. Andyon 28 Oct 2012 at 8:43 am

    We use and recommend Mercy Clinic (0236771919). The doctor is Cambodian but very good. Lots of expats go to him. We’ve gotten decent treatment at a number of places, but we do strictly avoid any doctors that don’t come with strong recommendations.

    I personally avoid SOS. They are set up to service people with travel insurance who don’t care about the prices. I once took someone there who obviously had a sinus infection. They insisted on x-raying her head to confirm the diagnosis before they would prescribe antibiotics. Clearly, it was all about money, and their rates are hiked up to begin with. But it’s convenient…and “free” if you have comprehensive insurance.

  13. Marilyn Tayloron 30 Oct 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Are you able to get prescription medications there to control diabetes, specifically, Glyburide, Janumet, Actos?

  14. Jainaon 15 Aug 2013 at 11:03 am

    DO NOT GO HERE!!!! Went to see DR JEAN TERRASSE. I went in for an appointment with alot of concern of my health with chest pain, difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate, high fever and severe stomach pain. I don’t think you have to be a doctor to know that these symptoms should be treated seriously. That is exactly what I didn’t receive. I got a ignorant, arrogant Doctor Terrasse that cut me off when I tried to speak, his patience is low and he has no understanding of someone being a little nervous about my health condition at that present moment. He sent me out with laxatives, nasal spray and antibiotics as my prescription. Nasal spray? Did I say anything about wanting to clean my nose? I had not had the appropriate tests to be given antibiotics either…

    Two hours later I end up in the emergency room at Calmette Hospital. They treated me promptly, I feel alot better because of the doctors at Calmette. Just shows that when you are in a country like Cambodia and you think going to a “international standards” hospital you are not always getting the best treatment. My bill was over $100 for about 10 minutes of his time. If Dr Terrasse was a good doctor, I would not have ended up in hospital. I found out what the problem was eventually, and my condition was completely preventable if treated properly. Two days later out of curiosity I went back to the Naga Clinic to get the results that Dr Terrasse had taken on the first visit. I felt alot better but still had similar symptoms just not as bad a 2 days prior. I told him I ended up in hospital a few hours after the initial appointment I had with him, he ignored what I said, gave me my blood test results and with a smile said “but your not sick”…. Worst doctor I have ever been to. You have been warned….

  15. Garion 28 Aug 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Just saw a dentist in nam who was recommended to me from his obviously xcellent results and he proved right…….brilliant job for a quarter of western cost….but I’m sick (sic) of seeing so called medical pros AND heaps of others in varied fields in ALL parts of Asia…..knowing there’s no healt care complaints commission to be bothered by . The arrogant swindlers they are and so if not by absolute necessity I will only channel my business to ones that are recommended by some one that I would recommend to some one. Yeah there’s. great and greatly annoying things to Asia but its part of the culture…….buyer be aware.

  16. Troyon 23 Oct 2013 at 7:03 am

    PODIATRIST ? —Phonom Phen or HCMC
    I have acquired a foot problem through wearing flip flops in the last two years of Asia travel. While these are “orthopedic flips” let’s face it…there is only so much support you can get from a flip… Are you aware of any docs that may specialize in Podiatry?

  17. Rajaon 22 Apr 2014 at 6:03 am

    Just saw Dr. Gavin Scott – extremely thorough, informative and understood the difficulties I may be facing as a foreigner. Its now $55 but I would have happily paid more to know I can trust him. Couldn’t recommend him more.

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