Swiss Agency Continues to Block Hospital Grant

The Swiss Agency for Develop­ment and Cooperation is still blocking the $2.2 million grant slated to support Dr Beat Richner’s pediatric hospitals in Cambodia, the organization said Wednesday.

A message posted on the agency’s Web site stated that the SDC could not pay out the grant because it does not have a contract with Richner’s Kantha Bopha Foundation. The grant would support the operating costs of Rich­ner’s three hospitals.

“There is still no contract with the SDC and the foundation, and the SDC still has no possibility to transfer the money which has long been available,” the statement said.

Richner declined to comment on the SDC statement Wednes­day. In an interview Tuesday, he said the SDC had re­scinded a requirement that he sign contracts with the Cam­bodian government.

Last week, the SDC threatened to stop the grant unless Richner signed a contract, called a protocole d’accord, with the Ministry of Health. Richner said he opposes the protocole d’accord because it would require him to pay taxes and follow medical procedures that he opposes.

The SDC statement said that an agreement was reached Tuesday with the Kantha Bopha Found­ation to sign a contract with the SDC, and that the officials would create a “roadmap” to re­solve differences by the end of July.

“Both sides are interested in finding a solution to this difference of opinion and want to create the preconditions as quickly as possible so that the urgently-needed money can be paid out,” the SDC statement said.

Swiss honorary consul Pierre Tami said he could not comment, saying it was an issue between the agency and Richner.

Minister of Heath Hong Sun Huot did was not available for comment Wednesday. The Ministry’s Secretary of State Mam Bun Heng and Director-General for Health Promotion Eng Huot both said they were in meetings.                        From 1992 to 1997, Richner said he had a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Health. In 1997, he said King No­ro­dom Sihanouk agreed Richner could continue to run his hospitals as long as he could support them.

Richner said Tuesday that he believed the SDC’s threats were a ploy aimed at stalling his attempts to raise funds in Switzerland for a new pediatric hospital in Phnom Penh.

 

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