The Angkor Hospital for Children has already come a long way since it treated its first child patient in 1999.
Khmer Times’ Peter Olszewski writes about how the hospital healed thousands of children and led several healthcare programmes and research two decades on.
The Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap celebrated its twentieth anniversary on Friday with a series of official functions kicked off by an opening ceremony attended by several high-ranking dignitaries including Dr Mam Bunheng, Minister of the Ministry of Health, and Kenro Izu, a Japanese photographer and founding father of the hospital .
Mr Izu, who specialises in photographing sacred architecture, first came to Siem Reap in 1993 to photograph the temples. The plight of the many ill and malnourished children that he encountered in the province moved him to begin planning the construction of a hospital for children in 1995, supported by the US-registered NGO Friends Without A Border.
Four years later, in 1999, the hospital opened with just three Cambodian doctors and ten nurses under the management of Friend Without A Border until January 2014, when the management of the hospital was handed over to the hospital’s Cambodian staff after a 12-month transition.
The hospital has now become a leading healthcare organisation employing over 500 Cambodian staff, training many others, and contributing to healthcare procedure, policy and research nationally and internationally.
Sarah Cuiksa, the hospital’s communications manager, says, “AHC’s mission to improve healthcare for all of Cambodia’s children is as relevant and critical today as it was in 1999, but it has evolved.
“Looking ahead, providing secondary and tertiary services found nowhere else in Cambodia will take priority. These include – but are not limited to – hematology and oncology, infectious diseases, HIV, chronic diseases, pediatric surgery and more.”
In 2001, the hospital began a partnership with Health Volunteers Overseas and since then the organisations have shared a close alignment in their missions to improve the quality and availability of healthcare, with the partnership expanding in January 2016.
One highlight in the hospital’s history was in 2005, when it was officially recognised as Cambodia’s first teaching hospital, and for a period served as a training site for the World Health Organisation’s Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses Programme.
The WHO programme discontinued due to lack of funding, but the training of healthcare professionals certainly continues.
AHC’s commitment to education is as indispensable today as it was when the hospital first opened its gates,” says Ms Cuiksa. “By building capacity that extends beyond its own walls, the organisation is training Cambodia’s next generation of healthcare professionals and improving outcomes throughout the country’s healthcare system.”
In 2013 the hospital began a major advancement in Cambodia medical history – the treatment of cancer, first treating eye cancer and then expanding.
“Five years ago, if a child was diagnosed with cancer in Cambodia, the outlook was bleak,” Ms Cuiksa says.
“Few if any resources for treatment existed, and the survival rate for children diagnosed was less than 10%. There were no facilities offering radiotherapy, hematology, intensive chemotherapy or palliative care.
“Today, the landscape is changing, as AHC aims to lead the way in advancing curative treatment and palliative care for childhood cancer in Cambodia, along with building a network of quality paediatric cancer care centers across the country.”
In mid-2018, the hospital also treated its first leukemia patients, becoming Cambodia’s first center to treat the disease in children holistically, ensuring and that the hospital’s next twenty years will see it providing specialised service to the Kingdom.