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Richner threatens to close two hospitals

Richner threatens to close two hospitals

The unresolved crowding crisis at the Kantha Bopha 1 Children's Hospital has

prompted threats by founder Dr Beat Richner to shut both his children's

hospitals in Phnom Penh by the year end. He warned that 2,000 children a month

would die if that happened.

Richner outlined several conditions in a

letter sent on October 20 to the Ministry of Health (MoH), and also delivered to

King Norodom Sihanouk and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

His principal demand is

for more land at Kantha Bopha 1 to meet the growing demand for its free

services. Failing that, he said, the ministry should improve conditions at other

children's hospitals to reduce the demand at Kantha Bopha 1, which is badly

overcrowded.

Richner said the MoH had done nothing to solve the problem,

despite secretary of state Dr Mam Bun Heng telling him the ministry would try.

Bun Heng's only comment to the Post was that it was "an internal meeting between

colleagues".

Kantha Bopha 1 currently sees 2,000 outpatients a day, and

is in desperate need of a new outpatient center, intensive care unit and

surgery. Richner said he was now pinning his hopes on the support of the

King.

In his reply to Richner, the King indicated that he was aware of

the difficulties and offered his "unshakable support". He wrote that Hun Sen

might be able to solve the crisis.

"I hope that His Excellency Samdech

Hun Sen, head of the government ... will be able to help you to overcome these

difficulties, because Samdech is a great patriot and a great leader who

understands the highest interests of the country, the people and the children of

Cambodia," the King wrote in French on 24 October.

Richner said Hun Sen

would attend the inauguration of a new education center at the third Kantha

Bopha hospital in Siem Reap this month.

"I still think that on 12

November I will meet the Prime Minister and there will be a solution, we can

solve the problem," said Richner. "If not, we must soon decide."

He also

demanded an apology from Minister Hong Sun Huot over comments made in the media,

and called for cooperation with his hospital rather than falsified statistics he

said the ministry had issued.

Kantha Bopha's projections estimate that

50,000 children will be treated as in-patients this year, and another 600,000

will be seen as outpatients. The main ailments are tuberculosis, malaria and

dengue fever. The hospitals are named after one of King Sihanouk's daughters,

who died in 1952 of leukemia.

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