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Hospital founder seriously ill

Mom Kunthear / Khmer Times Share:
Much of the hospitals’ funds come from private donations in Switzerland. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Beat Richner, the founder and head of the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital and a Health Ministry adviser, is seriously ill and has resigned from his position as managing director.
 
In a press release from the hospital on Tuesday, the board of the Kantha Bopha Foundation in Zurich, Switzerland, said Dr. Richner was seriously ill and would step down immediately.
 
Peter Studer, the vice-president of the board, will take over.
 
“The hospital will still operate as usual even though Dr. Richner is seriously ill,” the press release said.
 
“Dr. Richner and board members have developed a strategy to ensure the continuity of the hospitals as a high-quality model offering free child and maternal healthcare.”
 
In early 2015, the government declared the hospitals as models for the Cambodian health system. In March 2016, Dr. Richner was nominated as a special adviser to the Health Ministry with the same status as a secretary of state.
 
Denis Laurent, the head of laboratory and logistics at Kantha Bopha hospitals, told Khmer Times yesterday that Dr. Richner was being treated at a Swiss hospital.
 
Mr. Laurent said he was unaware of the severity of his illness.
 
“He is in Switzerland and we hope that he will come back to Cambodia, but now his situation is serious,” he said.
 
Dr. Laurent added that the hospitals are operating as normal with the full support of the government.
 
According to a Kantha Bopha report, there are 2,500 people employed at its five hospitals.
 
The first Kantha Bopha hospital was inaugurated in Phnom Penh by former King Norodom Sihanouk in September 1992. The hospital was named after King Sihanouk’s daughter, who died from leukemia.
 
Dr. Richner established four more hospitals and a maternity ward.
 
Four of the hospitals are in Phnom Penh and one, along with the maternity ward, is located in Siem Reap City. The hospitals spend $120,000 per day.
 
Over the past 24 years, the Kantha Bopha hospitals have treated 14,837,471 children as outpatients and 1,516,472 children have been hospitalized.
 
“Eighty percent of these children would not be lucky if they did not get treatment at this hospital. The hospital staff works hard both day and night. About 140 seriously ill patients are sent to the hospital every night,” the report read.
 
All medical services are free of charge since many families in Cambodia cannot afford medical costs. Without Kantha Bopha, 3,200 more children would die in Cambodia every month, the report added.
 
From 1992 to 2016, the Kantha Bopha hospitals spent $563 million treating Cambodian children, with 4.7 percent of the budget donated from the government, 8.9 percent from the Swiss government and 86.6 percent from private donations, mostly from people in Switzerland.
 
Health Minister Mam Bun Heng told a local website yesterday that he considered Dr. Richner to be a god, having saved millions of Cambodian children’s lives.
 
He said his ministry would continue to work closely with Dr. Studer, the new head of the Kantha Bopha hospitals.

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