Samu Ambulance Service, Phnom Penh's only free ambulance service, was forced to close
down at the end of last year because it ran out of funds. It provided a 24-hour service
transporting mostly traffic accident victims from around the city to state
Dr Svay Kamol, project manager at the organization, said he was concerned that cancellation
of the service would mean there would not be enough ambulance coverage in the city.
While most state hospitals have their own ambulances, their services are not free
or available 24-hours.
Kamol said the service had been funded by the French Red Cross (FRC) since it was
established in 1997. Since 1999, the FRC has reduced their funding and the Cambodian
Red Cross (CRC) picked up the tab.
At the end of 2003, the FRC said they could no longer offer support and the service
was forced to close, Kamol said.
Dr Nguon Sakhon, second deputy secretary-general of CRC, said the agency could not
fund Samu's operations by itself, as it had other funding commitments as well. "We
know that Samu is very important for saving victims, but the budget is the main problem,"
he said. "We decided to stop it ...we have no choice."
The service costs about $40,000 per year to run.
Sakhon said ambulance service fell under the responsibility of the Ministry of Health
but the government could not take over the funding because it had not been factored
into their budget at the beginning of the year. "It is very difficult to look
for donors because it is the end of the year. It is hopeless," Sakhon said.
Both the CRC and Samu are appealing to NGOs, embassies and private companies to help
support it this year.