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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Swiss provide role-model for success

Swiss provide role-model for success

At the Kantha Bopha children's hospital a cleaner is as important as any doctor maintains

Dr Beat Richner, the Swiss national who built the hospital and runs it today.

"If a child gets sick in a dirty hospital a doctor is useless," says Richner.

Kantha Bopha, named after King Sihanouk's daughter who died of leukemia, is seen

by many as a role-model hospital.

A strong smell of chlorine permeates the air. Cleaners appear to be working in every

corner.

An equally-strong sense of professionalism fills the wards and corridors.

Theft and corruption may be endemic in most Cambodian hospitals, but Dr Richner claims

to have eradicated both by giving staff a strong sense of purpose and pride and by

paying them their worth.

The Health Ministry pays doctors a basic salary of 44,000 riel a month which Richner

then supplements. A cleaner receives $100 and a doctor $180.

Parents are encouraged to stay and care for their children which eases the staff

work-load. Advice on after-care and basic hygiene are also passed on.

The hospital provides beds for 138 patients but never turns any children away. At

present, there are an extra 27 patients lining the corridors.

Each morning at 7:40 am the medical team reviews the previous night's cases. The

style is very Swiss.

Presently, 12 foreign doctors and nurses supplement the 230 hospital staff.

Treatment and prescriptions are free. To reinforce the fact, signs are posted everywhere

informing patients they do not have to pay for anything.

The hospital's pharmacy clearly marks all medicines "Not for resale".

Kantha Bopha operates on an annual budget of $2.2 million but Richner predicts this

figure can be cut in half over the next five years as local staff replace those from

overseas.

The hospital survives on donations solicited by Richner himself. The doctor is also

a renowned cellist and writer of fairy-tales.

Richner's hospital is being viewed by the Health Ministry as a role-model for others

around the country.

Funding aside, the doctor believes the actual recipe for success is to encourage

the staff to believe in the value of their work.

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