Dr. Beat Richner, the Swiss pediatrician who has managed Kantha Bopha hospitals since he founded the first one in 1992, has been forced to step down for health reasons.
Dr. Richner, 70, officially resigned on Wednesday as managing director of the Kantha Bopha Foundation, which is based in Zurich. Dr. Peter Studer, the foundation’s vice president, who has assisted Dr. Richner from the start, is serving as the interim head of the five hospitals and their 2,500 employees, according to a news release.
“Dr. Richner and board members have developed a strategy to ensure the continuity of the hospitals as a model of high-quality, free child and maternal health care,” the release reads.
Based in Switzerland, Dr. Studer has been coming to Cambodia several times a year to help manage Kantha Bopha’s three hospitals in Phnom Penh and two in Siem Reap, said Dr. Denis Laurent, deputy director of the foundation in Cambodia.
Asked about Dr. Richner’s health, Dr. Laurent said that Dr. Richner was in Switzerland and that his family did not wish to give any detail regarding his medical condition.
Following the announcement, the Swiss Embassy issued a news release to reiterate its support of the Kantha Bopha free hospitals. “Switzerland has supported the Kantha Bopha Hospitals since 1994,” the release says, and “will support the Foundation.”
A familiar figure in the field, Dr. Richner would give cello concerts at the hospital in Siem Reap City to help raise funds and ensure visitors understand how crucial it was to offer free health care in the country as most Cambodians cannot afford treatment.
To run the hospitals, the foundation needs $42 million every year, Dr. Laurent said on Wednesday.
As of last month, $2 from every ticket purchased for Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province will be donated to Kantha Bopha by the Cambodian government, he said. The hospitals fall under the purview of the Health Ministry.
The ticket proceeds should considerably help maintain the hospitals, Dr. Laurent added. According to Dr. Richner’s website, the foundation has spent $560 million to treat 1.6 million children in the hospital and 16 million children on an outpatient basis over the past 24 years.
“It is very good symbol for Kantha Bopha to get this new support and also to see the government…decide to help Kantha Bopha more and more,” Dr. Laurent said.