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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - German Doctors Prepare to Pack Up

German Doctors Prepare to Pack Up

The U.N. Field Hospital in Phnom Penh will evacuate Cambodian patients to local hospitals

along with whatever medical supplies they need before it closes its doors on Oct.

31, hospital chief Lt. Col. Wolfgang M. Seibert said last week.

Foreign U.N. patients will be sent back to their home countries or to Bangkok if

they are still in a critical condition, he said.

Since the hospital began operating in May last year , more than 10,000 Cambodians

have received treatment. This is in addition to the U.N. peacekeepers, for whom the

hospital was originally supposed to provide exclusive medical services.

Lt. Col. Seibert said the hospital, which has been run by German doctors, decided

to give treatment to the Cambodian people because many of them could not afford to

go to the local hospitals or have the opportunity to get modern medical treatment.

In response to this great demand for free medical treatment, UNTAC built an out-patient

clinic in May with funds provided by the German and Japanese governments. Each day,

more than 150 Cambodians come to get medical help. Out of them, the hospital chief

said 10 to 15 per cent are accepted to be hospitalized. The German government has

provided 500,000 Deutschemarks together with 7 tons of medical supplies to be used

for treating Cambodian patients. Japan has also donated medicine and dressings.

One of the main things that the Cambodians feel grateful for and will never forget

is the fact that the U.N. hospital has treated all patients exactly alike, whether

they are UNTAC or non-UNTAC.

"If I hear that one of my doctors gives the patients the feeling not as good

as the others, I'll punish him," said the Lt. Col. Seibert.

The doctor said that most of the local Cambodian visitors were found to be suffering

from malnutrition, typhoid, malaria and skin infections. There were also numerous

victims of traffic accidents, gun shots and mines.

Explaining his feelings for Cambodia and her unfortunate people, the U.N. medical

commander said he and his physicians found it very hard to shut down the hospital

knowing they would be leaving patients behind.

" When we go away, it'll be like a hole," he lamented, sighing deeply.

If possible, the commander said he would like to stay longer and that more than half

of his 145 German physicians also shared his sentiment.

He said most of the German peacekeepers in Cambodia are members of the reserve medical

corps and are rotated every three or four months. His fellow Germans were very enthusiastic

to come and help the Cambodian people during their holidays, when they could usually

make more money back home, he said.

Precluded by its pacifist constitution from sending troops abroad, the German government

has tried to meet its international obligations by providing medical care to the

United Nations.

The medical equipment brought from Germany was in theory supposed to go back when

the peacekeeping mission ended, but after discovering the great need for these materials,

UNTAC and the German government have decided to donate them to the local hospitals.

"They miss everything. They need lots of equipment," Lt. Col. Seibert said

after visiting several local hospitals.

"Only with your hands, eyes and ears, you can't do medical treatment."

Moreover, he refused to share the local view of Cambodian physicians as being corrupt

and incompetent and instead cited meagre wages as the problem.

" They need to be well paid. No one can work for nothing," he said, adding

that "circumstances make them corrupt".

Speaking about his personal interest, Lt. Col. Seibert said: "I love Cambodia

and the Cambodian people," adding that in 5 or 10 years he will come back to

see the country and what development it has made.

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