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Making a difference by saving children’s lives

Families wait to get their children treated at Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital
Families wait to get their children treated at Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital. Hong Menea

Making a difference by saving children’s lives

1 – Could you please give a short introduction about your willingness to establish a charity children’s hospital in Cambodia? Can you explain why charity is important for you?
Dr Beat Richner: I was asked by His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk and the Cambodian government to restore the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital where I worked as a young pediatrician from 1974-75 until the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh. Kantha Bopha is no charity, it is the obligation of all the civilised and rich human beings and governments to save the lives of children in a country that has been destroyed by war and civil war brought from outside. The patients are children from parents who mostly are poor. That is why all treatment is free for all. Again, it should not be a charity but an obligation.

2 – Please kindly update us so we can understand the number of children’s lives that have been saved by the professional treatment they received in Kantha Bopha Hospital?
Dr Beat Richner: For 21 years we have hospitalised 1.3 million severely sick children, and 14 million were treated in the outpatient stations. Last year we had to admit for hospitalisation 150,000 severely sick children. Among the hospitalised children at least 80 per cent would not have survived without this hospitalisation. We treat 85 per cent of all Cambodian children. In the case of the Dengue Fever it is 92 per cent!

Checking a baby’s weight
Checking a baby’s weight. Hong Menea

3 – Could you explain to our readers about the professional standards used to treat children’s diseases? What are the most difficult cases to treat for Kantha Bopha Hospital?
Dr Beat Richner: In order to do a correct and effective treatment which is saving the child and not killing them you first should do a correct diagnosis. That is why all our hospitals are equipped with correct but expensive
facilities such as MRIs, Ultrasounds, CT Scanners, laboratories, blood banks and so on. The standard of the medicine and drugs are corresponding to the standard you have in the US or in Europe too. The standard of surgery (60 surgical operation per day) too.

Now every day we do heart surgery and interventional heart-catheter too. Every child has only one life if living in Cambodia, in Switzerland or in Washington. The rule by the WHO and other international organisations is wrong and fatal that the medical facilities should correspond to the economical reality of the country. For 80 per cent of Cambodian people it is zero as a consequence of the wars.

4 – What is your biggest achievement in the history of your hospital? Could you give us some idea about how you promote awareness of Cambodian healthcare and better living standards in Cambodia?
Dr Beat Richner: Today our annual budget is US$40 million. Three million dollars are contributed by the Cambodian government, US$4 million by the Swiss government, US$1 million by the Cambodian Red Cross. The other US$32 million comes from private donations I have to look for. This US$32 million should be given by the governments that have brought war to Cambodia or have supported the civil war in Cambodia.

Mothers wait to get their babies checked
Mothers wait to get their babies checked. Hong Menea

The main problem of health in Cambodia is, for example, Tuberculosis. It is a consequence of the war. But it is underestimated and not understood by the WHO. Already the TB infected but not sick child is weakened in its immunity balance and so more vulnerable to other diseases. And TB infected children are malnourished too.

5 – Please tell our readers about your experiences with Kantha Bopha Hospital in Cambodia. Will your hospital be able to fund and support child care projects for another 10 years or more?
Dr Beat Richner: As long as the Cambodian government cannot contribute more to Kantha Bopha we go on looking for donations as long as we can. I hope that the many rich Cambodian people with their huge villas and castles and cars will contribute more money to Kantha Bopha. They should share this responsibility in favour of the poor. It is an obligation of love and justice.

6 – We Cambodian people and our government are impressed and proud of you for doing a very difficult mission. What would to tell to all your fund donors about your achievements in Cambodia?
Dr Beat Richner: The Kantha Bopha hospitals are effective because there is no corruption. All the 2,450 Cambodian staff are doing hard work, day and night. They do not work outside in private clinics or private
businesses. But they get a correct salary. And still our hospitals are the hospitals worldwide with the best correlation costs/healing rates! I think that will be the model not only for Cambodia but for all poor countries.

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