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Canadian NGO quits Cambodia

Canadian NGO quits Cambodia

ACanadian medical NGO has pulled out of Cambodia following a row about its operations

between its country director and the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSALVY).

ROSEcharities BC officially ended its involvement in Cambodia May 31 and would not

return, said its Canadian-based director Dr William Grut.

The ROSEcharities BC surgical rehabilitation project at Kien Khleang in Phnom Penh

was set up in 1999 to provide free ophthalmic and facial rehabilitation, and to train

Cambodian medical staff in those procedures.

Secretary of state at MoSALVY, Prak Chanta, sent a letter March 18 to the board of

ROSEcharities BC in which she requested the board close the ophthalmic clinic, the

center that performs the majority of its operations in Cambodia.

Chanta insisted that country director Dr Jim Gollogly, an orthopedic surgeon and

for now a member of the NGO's board, be replaced as manager of the ophthalmic division.

He would be allowed to remain as head of the orthopedic section.

The reason, MoSALVY said, was that he had illegally sacked his chief ophthalmic surgeon,

Dr Hang Vra.

"The action we took was not arbitrary," Chanta wrote, "it was the

result of Dr Gollogly's persistent failure to meet with us and discuss the issue."

On the same day the director of investigations at the ministry also sent a letter

to the board outlining MoSALVY's "preliminary results" of its assessment.

Among the complaints contained in the MoSALVY letter from director Prak Chantoeun

were that unqualified staff were "recruited and assigned responsibilities beyond

their capacity", that "unqualified personnel" were employed in the

NGO's eye operation division, and that "certain complex procedures have been

conducted without regard to the lack of post-operative care facilities".

Chantoeun also complained that the ministry's relationship with the NGO's country

director, Dr Jim Gollogly, had deteriorated to such an extent that an independent

audit of what had gone on at the NGO was "the only proper course of action".

Other serious allegations were that the eye surgeon had been dismissed illegally

and replaced with an "unqualified supervisor", and that there was no visible

evidence that an amount of $25,000 shown as spent on maintenance and construction

over the course of one year had indeed been spent that way.

Dr Gollogly rejected the ministry's claims and said the entire episode boiled down

to a dispute with his former eye surgeon Dr Vra, whom he claimed was running a private

practice on the premises. He said Dr Vra had resigned.

However, when the Post contacted Dr Vra June 6, he rejected both allegations out

of hand.

"I never took money [for the operations I did] and I didn't resign," Dr

Vra said.

The Post visited Dr Gollogly at Kien Khleang on June 4. However, during the interview

he confiscated the tape in the recorder, which had been on the table in front of

him throughout the interview, saying he was unaware he was being recorded.

He later sent the Post an email in which he stated he had "disposed" of

the tape but was "happy to explain our position to you in more detail, as the

story is worth a novel...but probably not an article".

But when the Post called Dr Gollogly the following day to take up that offer, he

refused, saying: "No, I spent ample time talking to you already."

Consequently, the Post was unable to obtain answers to some allegations.

One allegation the Post did get a response to was that leveled by two Canadian nurses

who worked at ROSE. In their emailed complaints, which were received by the Canada-based

board, they wrote of their concerns at the lack of post-operative pain medication

to patients under Dr Gollogly's care.

The first nurse wrote in April 2001 that Dr Gollogly had forbidden any Khmer staff

from providing pain medication stronger than paracetemol "regardless of peoples


The second nurse wrote: "As to the pain control aspect of post-op patient care,

or lack thereof, we are appalled at the inadequacy of appropriate analgesia ... I

told [volunteer surgeon Dr Massey Beveridge] that ROSE is doing very good work but

I am concerned about the pain control issue."

However Dr Beveridge, who has worked for ROSE several times, told the Post that "pain

control is an issue in all Cambodian hospitals, particularly as it is difficult to

obtain safe, appropriate narcotic analgesics in the country, but I believe the standard

of care at the ROSE Centre is equal to, and typically better than, in other Phnom

Penh hospitals."

He added that Dr Gollogly provided "excellent care throughout the whole process".

Dr Gollogly said that patients received pain pills whenever they asked for them.

He admitted that one Canadian nurse purchased pain medication after he and visiting

surgeons told her not too, because she did not understand that medicine was practiced

differently in Cambodia. He had further instructed her never to return to ROSE.

Board member Dr William Grut told the Post that in his opinion Dr Gollogly had taken

the issue of reduced post-operative pain medication "too far", adding that

"something more should have been done about it at the time".

And in a remarkable turn of events, which left the ministry furious and the board

mystified, Dr Gollogly stripped the ophthalmic clinic of all its equipment, worth

$15,000, days before the handover to a new local NGO was to be conducted.

Dr Grut said the board of ROSEcharities BC had agreed with MoSALVY that ROSE Cambodia,

a new local NGO dedicated to performing eye operations, would take over the ophthalmic


Dr Vra would head the clinic, which to date had proved the most important part of

the charity's function, performing an estimated 1,600 of the total 2,000 operations

carried out by the NGO last year, Dr Grut said.

That will no longer be possible, said Dr Grut, as there was no longer any ophthalmic

clinic to hand over. All the equipment, computers, furniture, and the wall fixtures

were removed on Dr Gollogly's instructions.

Dr Gollogly said the equipment was being used in a new clinic he has now set up in

the main building, under the auspices of a new NGO called ROSEcharities Cambodia,

which is being registered in the United States.

Dr Vra's deputy, Dr Roo, is now performing eye operations and is being assisted by

Tho Bunthoeun, who Dr Gollogly admits holds fraudulent qualifications.

Dr Gollogly said he originally hired Tho Bunthoeun as a laborer who lacked a high

school diploma. He was a good worker, Dr Gollogly said, so he told him he should

get some schooling.

He came back a few days later, Dr Gollogly said, with falsified papers, which the

doctor admitted he knew were fake. The Post has a copy of these qualifications.

However Dr Gollogly said they decided to train Bunthoeun as an ophthalmic assistant.

He is still working there; one of his duties is to inject anesthetic into the eyes

of patients before operations.

Dr Grut emailed the Post June 4 stating that "moves are now underway to expel

Dr Gollogly from the board and membership of ROSE Charities BC". He added the

NGO wrote to the Ministry of Health subcommittee overseeing ophthalmic work "to

completely disassociate the board from any ophthalmic activity currently being practiced

at Kien Khleang".

Dr Gollogly said Dr Grut and his two friends who form the majority of the board of

Canadian ROSE are conspiring against him, and claimed legal entitlement to all material

he removed from the original building. He said he was negotiating another memorandum

of understanding with the Ministry of Health to allow operations to continue in Cambodia.

"I feel this is all muckraking and easily corroborated or not, depending on

who you talk to," said Dr Gollogly. "And I feel it's pretty mean of William

[Grut] to try and get revenge this way."

A MoSALVY source confirmed that Minister Ith Samheng was angry at the current situation.

Other ministry officials declined to comment.


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