New Kantha Bopha Center Aims to End Hospital Graft

When Thabo Mbeki visited Kantha Bopha II children’s hospital in Phnom Penh last week, the South African president was sympathetic about the obstacles fa­cing hospital staff operating in a nation entrenched in poverty and corruption.

“We too have problems like these,” Mbeki told Kantha Bo­pha’s director and founder, Dr Beat Richner.

Doctors from developing countries need training in how to manage hospitals independently of graft and profiteering, Richner said. This is the founding principle behind the Kan­­tha Bopha Cen­ter, a conference and education center for Cam­bodian and in­ternational post­graduate medical students that opens today in Siem Reap.

Though some practical medical training will be given at the center, Richner’s vision for the Cen­ter focuses on ethics.

“We want to teach students how to build and run pediatric and obstetric hospitals that are free of cor­ruption,” he said.

Courses will be taught by local staff, French medical professionals and by Richner himself, and will begin in mid-2003.

Jean-Francois Frys, executive director of Medicam, welcomed  the center as a step forward in the battle against corruption of Cam­bodia’s medical profession. “The prob­lem of corruption is so huge that any project that tries to address it is most welcome,” Frys said. But the issue is double-edged, he cautioned, and al­though ethical training is a vital element of combating graft, “as long as medical staff receive less than a living wage, that’s a problem for Cambodia,” Frys said.

The center, on the grounds of the Jayavarman VII Children’s Hospital, consists of a medical li­brary stocked with $250,000-worth of medical books and reference materials, four small lecture theaters that seat 60 students each, one theater that seats 200 and one large hall designed to accommodate 600.

The center cost $3.5 million, $650,000 of which came from the Swiss government. The rest was given by private donors, Richner said.

The center’s inauguration also marks the 10th anniversary of the first Kantha Bopha children’s hospital in Phnom Penh.


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