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Medical staff gather in front of the new $10 million Centre De Neurosciences building during the inauguration ceremony at Calmette Hospital
Medical staff gather in front of the new $10 million Centre De Neurosciences building during the inauguration ceremony at Calmette Hospital yesterday in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Neuroscience centre opens

Cambodia launched its first full-scale public neuroscience centre at Calmette Hospital in the capital yesterday.

At the inaugural ceremony for the $10.8 million, 90-bed treatment facility, King Norodom Sihamoni showed his appreciation with a personal donation of $10,000.

The Centre De Neurosciences – complete with a neurosurgical ward, research unit and $420,000 neuronavigational system – will seek to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay.

“The project aims to respond to the genuine public health need and to help all patients with diseases of the nervous system, regardless of their financial status,” said Dr Francois Xavier-Roux, a neurosurgeon and project coordinator from nonprofit La Chaine de l’Espoir, which assisted in creating the new centre.

Prior to the opening of the neurosciences wing, many patients suffering from neurological conditions never got diagnosed, and the few patients able to get expensive medical treatment in time often had to leave the country.

“The need is great, but the responses so far are still very poor. The establishment of this neurosciences centre . . . is a big step, in fact, a huge step forward,” Xavier-Roux said.

For patients who cannot afford costly procedures and scans, the hospital will charge based on a sliding fee, according to a staff member at Calmette who declined to provide his name.

The centre aims to tackle a gigantic discrepancy between neurological case load and services offered in the Kingdom. Every year, Cambodia sees an estimated 22,000 patients with hemiplegic paralysis, 3,000 patients with brain tumours and 12,000 patients with herniated discs, according to Minister of Health Mam Bunheng.

“There is also an overwhelming number of emergency head trauma accidents in adults and children at Calmette and also at other hospitals [in Cambodia] . . . There are thousands of children born with spinal cord and brain disorders, which have led to major physical impairment,” Bunheng said. “Without proper care and treatment, the problems get worse.”

In addition to seeing patients, Calmette’s newest wing will also serve as a research and training center for neurologists, neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists and paramedics.

“We don’t have many neurologists or enough doctors specialising in neurological disorders to provide treatment to all the cases,” said Dr Hok Tola, a neurology consultant at Preah Kossamak Hospital.

Tola added that many would-be Cambodian neurosurgeons are discouraged from the specialty since “they have to go to France or elsewhere to train”. But with a new training centre in the country, the trend may soon change.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LAIGNEE BARRON

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