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Hospital claims its first cancer kid treatment breakthrough

Angkor Hospital for Children  staff  busy training government healthcare professionals.
Angkor Hospital for Children staff busy training government healthcare professionals. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Hospital claims its first cancer kid treatment breakthrough

Last year Angkor Hospital for Children achieved its long-term goal of becoming a locally run Asian-based organisation, and in January management was officially handed over from US-based NGO Friends without a Border to the hospital’s Cambodian staff.

Now the hospital has more reason to celebrate with the publication of its annual report, which details various developments and successes in 2013. “Ever since the hospital opened in 1999, Friends Without a Border has supported and overseen us,” says Angkor Hospital for Children deputy director Dr Ngoun Pheaktra. “The goal of the original founder Mr Kenro Izu was always for this to become a true Cambodian hospital, led by Cambodians.”

This having been achieved, the hospital went on to develop in other ways, including the opening of a new neonatal ward, a significant unprecedented increase in blood drive support from Cambodians (as opposed to foreigners) and the hospital’s first venture into chemotherapy treatment.

“After the 2013 transition we came up with a plan of what we wanted to do – ideas for the future, how Angkor Hospital for Children should look according to the Cambodian leaders,” says Dr Pheaktra.

“We’ve had some very exciting successes – for example the neonatal ward. Before, we mixed newborns with the other patients and if they were very sick it wasn’t very good for them.” The new ward has two units, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for critical care, and the Special Care Baby Unit for continuing treatment. Last year the ward treated more than 300 patients.

Nika, Angkor Hospital for Children's first chemotherapy patient successfully battling eye cancer.
Nika, Angkor Hospital for Children's first chemotherapy patient successfully battling eye cancer. PHOTO SUPPLIED

“We also started cancer treatment in 2013,” says Dr Pheaktra. “As you know, here in Cambodia it’s very difficult to find cancer care – children suffering from it usually die. In developing countries, 90 per cent of eye cancer patients are cured, but here patients die. That’s why we decided to start this program, and we were successful with our first patient.”

Dr Pheaktra says Angkor Hospital for Children is the only hospital in Siem Reap providing chemotherapy, and its first young recipient, Nika, is now doing well after the removal of her right eye and several rounds of treatment.

Also in 2013, Cambodian staff began taking on more of the training of local healthcare professionals, through the hospital’s External Program Department.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time, but before it was led by foreign expatriate department heads. Now it is run by the Cambodian leaders,” says Dr Pheaktra. “We do a lot of training for health providers, hospitals, nursing students and we also have our residency program.

“Last year we focused a lot on quality care and improvement of training. We took a lot of residencies – 20 people. It’s very important to train them properly and they become very good pediatricians. When they finish here, they can go on to work anywhere and practice very safely.”

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