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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Army hospital staff appeals for aid

Army hospital staff appeals for aid

H undreds of people, mostly soldiers, may have needlessly been infected with

critical diseases including the HIV virus because a hospital is can not afford

fresh needles which retail for 200 riel each.

A nurse and a pharacist at

Preah Ket Meala military hospital say needle re-use is common due to lack of

funds. They said that needles are only sterilized overnight after having been

usd all day on patients throughout the ward.

Needle sharing is a highly

effective means of transmitting the HIV virus and is usually associated with

drug users.

Jeun Tavie, a nurse at the hospital since 1991 said: "We have

to reuse the same needle. For example, in this building [B1B] there are thirty

seven patients.

"We use one needle two times a day for three days before

we threw it away. We have to use the same needle for all the

patients."

According to Tavie the needle is sterilized by boiling in

water. In this way potential transmission of the virus is only prevented from

the last patient of the day to the first in the morning.

Another nurse,

who preferred to remain unidentified, said he witnessed injections of four or

five patients who required the same medicine and ended up sharing the same

needle as well.

The hospital pharmacist Hel So Phal also admitted the

hospital is re-using needles. He said "We desperatley need needles, syringes and

medicine. Could you please advertise to any foreign agencies for

help."

Richard Remas, Phnom Penh-based technical officer for the World

Health Organization's Global Program on Aids said: "We have heard frequently

that there is a re-use of needles and a lack of sterilization.

"It is

going to keep on happening until resources are available to supply needles and

syringes.

The Defence Ministry runs the hospital but the appropriate

official was unavailable for comment.

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