“I think I want to be the first patient,” Prime Minister Hun Sen, who routinely leaves the country for medical care, said on Tuesday at an opening ceremony for Cambodia’s first Japanese hospital, a state-of-the-art, $35 million facility in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva district.
Sunrise Japan Hospital, scheduled to offer its first consultations on October 17, laid out its ambitions with two statistics posted to a signboard for visitors on Tuesday: 220,000 Cambodians go abroad every year to receive medical treatment; and the country has only 1.7 doctors and seven beds per 10,000 residents, compared to Japan’s 23 doctors and 137 beds.
“Having a hospital with such high standards isn’t just beneficial for the Cambodian population. It builds trust among investors and tourists with money who come from far away,” Mr. Hun Sen said at the gathering on the hospital’s grounds in Phnom Penh, which included visiting Japanese parliamentarian Kiyoshi Odawara and dozens of new staff.
Neurosurgeon Yoshifumi Hayashi, the 50-bed hospital’s clinical director, said that although the hospital was a private enterprise, the goal was to build up Cambodia’s health services.
“The medical system isn’t enough. Many, many people are going out of the country” for treatment, Dr. Hayashi said.
“I’m a doctor—I’m a neurosurgeon—so I want to save many people,” he added. “Here, maybe without me, some cases can’t be solved. That’s the motivation for me.”
The hospital is backed by Tokyo’s Kitahara International Hospital group, which has previously opened a neurological institute in Phnom Penh. Apart from private investors, funding for the hospital included a loan from Jica, Japan’s foreign aid department.
The hospital will handle most types of care, including emergency services—apart from delivering babies, Dr. Hayashi said. The Japan-funded National Maternal and Child Health Center—commonly called the Japanese hospital—has long been Phnom Penh’s most popular destination for delivering babies.
A specialist wing at Sunrise Japan is planned for adjacent land, though specifics haven’t been decided, Dr. Hayashi said. All of the hospital’s non-Japanese staff—currently 80 out of 104—were sent to Japan for training for six months to a year, a perk that would continue for new staff, he said.
Training doctors and other medical staff is a key tenet of the hospital’s mission, he said, adding that he hoped to have university students and doctors from other hospitals observe treatments and surgeries, and take classes on its premises.
Fees for care would be less than in Thailand and Singapore, and cheaper than the priciest of Phnom Penh hospitals, Dr. Hayashi said. “I can’t say it’s very, very low, and everyone can come. But you’re confident of quality.”
For emergency patients who cannot afford to pay for their care, a charity fund is being created so their costs can be covered, he added.
The last major private hospital to open in the capital was the $50 million Royal Phnom Penh Hospital, which was built by Bangkok Dusit Medical Services and completed in 2014.