King Sihamoni Inaugurates New Eye Hospital Building in Takeo

donkeo city, Takeo province – The day was cloudless and bright and from his spot at the front of the stage, King Norodom Sih­amoni could clearly see the hundreds of people who gathered at the inauguration of the new Takeo Eye Hospital yesterday.

But clear vision, or the lack of it, is also what brings 150 to 200 people to the hospital every day for consultations and 15 to 20 people for eye surgeries daily.

“The hospital has provided services to a large number of Cam­bodian people, and training to Cam­­bodian health staff from various hospitals throughout the country,” King Sihamoni said to the crowd.

The interior of the new one-story building is 1,889 square me­ters—twice the size of the previous hospital—with 62 beds, three op­er­a­t­­ing rooms, 53 staff mem­­bers, including four doctors, and a large kitchen for the pa­tients’ care­t­ak­ers to prepare meals, said Serey Bonn, the hospital’s co-project direc­tor, yesterday at the ceremony.

The new hospital includes an open-air examination area complete with a modified eye chart. Instead of multiple letters, there is only an “E” flipped in different dir­ections and patients only have to say which direction the letter is fac­ing when they are undergoing tests, thus removing the complications of literacy in a foreign alphabet.

The operating rooms—one for gen­eral eye surgeries, one for cat­aract operations and one for tea­ching—are all kept under a higher air pressure so when the doors open, air is expelled, preventing things such as dust or bacteria from filtering in.

Mr Bonn said eye health is a con­­cern in Cambodia because the eyes are vulnerable to the sun­­­ny and dusty climate, poor nutrition, an improper use of medication and injuries from agricultural work.

“People can get things in their eyes from splitting wood or mil­ling rice, but they ignore it be­cause they are working,” he said.

Maryknoll, a Catholic aid organization, started the hospital in Ta­keo in 1997 after community-based blind rehabilitation teams in the province noticed that many of the cases were treatable, John Barth, a founder of the hospital, said yesterday at the ceremony.

Mr Barth said the most common eye problem in Cambodia is ca­taracts, which come naturally with age and can be fixed with a 50-minute surgery.

Injuries sustained during farm work take a serious turn when people ig­nore the initial injury; and it de­velops into a corneal scar, Mr Barth added.

“They don’t go to see a doctor be­cause they have no money, which means they end up losing their sight,” he said. “With a simple surgery we give them their lives back.”

In addition to providing medical care at the hospital, the hospital trains doctors and nurses who spe­cialize in eye care so they can open eye clinics in other pro­vinces and provide more access to health care. The program has pro­duced 21 eye doctors and 71 nurses who are currently working in the provinces.

“When we started we wanted to train doctors and nurses, not just set up a hospital,” Mr Barth said.


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