The statistics are impressive. Over the past five years, the Sihanouk Center Hospital of Hope has treated 350,000 people on an outpatient basis.
Over 3,000 surgeries have been conducted, 450,000 prescriptions have been written, and 310,000 laboratory tests and 37,000 radiology procedures have been completed. All free of charge.
But the demand for health care for the poor in Cambodia dwarfs even those numbers. The hospital often deals with more than 300 patients daily, and still there are sick people who wait their turn under a large tarpaulin in the parking lot for several days, hoping each morning they are selected by the lottery system used to ensure fairness.
The hospital took another step Monday toward meeting that demand. A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the construction of a $300,000 annex to the main hospital building.
Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara, hospital board chairman and Cambodia Daily publisher Bernard Krisher, and hospital director Dr Graham Gumley all heaped praise on the hospital’s staff.
“I hope this new building will serve Cambodians who otherwise cannot manage treatment,” said Chea Sophara, who donated municipality land for the annex.
“The government tries to serve people’s needs, but we haven’t been able to do enough yet. I hope in 18 months this building can serve both the people of Phnom Penh and the provinces.”
Srey Voeun, a 19-year-old from Kampot province, said Monday she had been coming to the hospital for more than a week hoping to win the lottery so she can receive treatment for a persistent cough.
“I have no parents or relatives, and I have no money,” she said. “I have some food because of the generosity of some other patients who are staying in the compound and awaiting treatment.
“I do not blame the hospital, because it can only accept so many people every day.”
Gumley says the annex will provide more than an expansion in the quantity and quality of medical care. “We’ll be able to see patients in a better environment, not outside in the hot sun,” he said. “It will give the patients more privacy and show them more respect.”
The hospital also prides itself on its training of Cambodian doctors, nurses and medical professionals.
“One of the striking achievements of the hospital is the high standard of care given by the Cambodian staff, with whom we work side-by-side,” Gumley said.
The $300,000 building will also allow the hospital to expand specialty treatments for such diseases as diabetes, dermatology and hypertension, expand its community AIDS program, and upgrade a telemedicine project that uses the Internet to transmit patient symptoms from remote Cambodian villages to doctors around the world so they can recommend treatment.