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
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
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.