Tributes poured in from the local medical fraternity for Dr Beat “Beatocello” Richner, the founder of the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals, who died in Zurich, Switzerland on Sunday. There are also calls to erect a statue in honour of the Swiss paediatrician.
The 71-year-old Richner, who spent decades working with children since he moved to Cambodia in 1992, died after battling with a serious illness for some time.
Chhoeng Haily, a medical doctor at the children’s hospital, who attended Richner’s memorial service at the Ministry of Health on Monday, told The Post he was saddened over the demise.
“I am very sad over the death of Beat Richer. He sacrificed a lot for Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals. He served Cambodian children from the bottom of his heart until he fell sick. He didn’t even think about himself and sacrificed so much for Cambodians,” said a teary-eyed Haily.
He added: “I would like to request the government to construct a statue for Beat Richner so all Cambodians can remember and understand who the founder of Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital was. Cambodians should remember him.”
Ron Sophal, a general practitioner at Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital V near Wat Phnom, said the late Richner devoted his life to treat Cambodian children and even neglected his own health.
“He did not care whether the children were rich or poor. He provided treatment equally by using modern [medical] technologies."
“I urge the government to erect a statue to symbolise his heroism. He devoted physically and mentally to help Cambodian children. The statue would be a reminder that he saved millions of children,” said Sophal.
While Kaing Meng, a specialist nurse working at the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital since 1996, said Richner’s death had affected many people.
“Not only am I mourning the loss of Beat Richner, all my friends and family members are also grieving.”
Chheng Kimseng, a resident from Siem Reap said, “I want the government to start building his statue in all Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals throughout Cambodia.”
The Council of Ministers’ spokesperson Phay Siphan told The Post on Monday that any request to erect a statue in honour of Richner should be submitted to the government for approval.
“A letter has to be submitted to the Prime Minister [Hun Sen] to decide, and then it will be sent to the cabinet for formal approval,” he said.
Siphan said Cambodian leaders have awarded medals to Richner to honour his contributions to children’s healthcare while he was alive.
Right now the government would like to express its deepest condolences to his family.
At the special memorial service, Health Minister Mom Bun Heng said his death was not only a loss of a prominent medical professional but a tremendous loss to the Cambodian healthcare sector as well.
“We will continue Dr Beat Richner’s humanitarian mission to help children in Cambodia,” he said.
A gifted cello player, Richner earned the nickname “Beatocello” and performed concerts in Switzerland to raise money to treat children for free in the Kingdom.
Richner was named the “Swiss of the Year” in 2002.