Gov’t Looking For Funds to Combat SARS

The Ministry of Health has spent all government funds reserved for severe acute respiratory syndrome and now must consider allocating new reserves to the prevention and care of a potential outbreak, ministry officials said Friday.

The cost of protective equipment and per diem salaries for border health officials already has dried up the government’s $11,000 SARS budget, said a Health Ministry official on condition of anonymity Friday.

The Ministry of Health now is considering setting aside 100 million riel (about $25,000) for SARS expenses, he said.

“I have asked for support [from] international donors, and they said it would come, but nothing has happened,” he said.

Dr Severin Von Xylander of the World Health Organization said Friday that the WHO has not decided what it will do about funding, but that aid from the Japanese government and the US Centers for Disease Control and Preven­tion is being channeled to all government units in need of support.

Hospital officials also are expressing concern about the country’s SARS budget, saying that health workers should be offered a monetary incentive to do their potentially life-threatening job.

Last week several Angkor Children’s Hospital employees admitted that they would flee the hospital if SARS cases were diagnosed there, said UNICEF’s Dr Rob Overtoom, advisor to the WHO and the Health Ministry.

“But proper knowledge about the disease is helping people to understand it,” he said, noting that with time and training, health workers’ fears are abating. Still, he said the WHO should consider offering clinicians a monetary incentive.

Dr Jean Baptiste Dufourcq of Calmette Hospital seconded the motion, saying that most of his staff have expressed fear of the disease.

“It’s a dangerous job. Of course I’m scared. Most of my staff is scared,” he said, adding that nearly half of all SARS victims worldwide have been health workers.

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