von Dr. med Peter Studer
Your Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni, Your Majesty Queen-Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, Samdech Bun Rany Hun Sen, Samdechs, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is a great honor to me to do this speech on the occasion of the inauguration of the new Kantha Bopha 1 hospital presided over by Your Majesties. Even more as the first of August is the national day of Switzerland. That’s why we are very pleased to have a representative of our government from Berne with us, her excellency secretary of state, Mrs. Baeriswyl. I am very happy to welcome also the sister of late Dr. Richner, Dr. Annaregula Lutz and her daughter Annina Lutz. The president of the Swiss Foundation, Dr. René Schwarzenbach asked me to excuse his absence at this important ceremony. It is because of a death in the family, which prevents him from assisting. The first milestone in the history of Kantha Bopha 1 has been in the 1960th when it was built by late King Norodom Sihanouk. The second milestone was the reopening of Kantha Bopha 1 by late and unforgotten Dr. Beat Richner on the 23rd of September 1992. Your Majesty Queen Mother had honored by Your presence also that ceremony. Me too I had the opportunity to participate in that memorable day. The third milestone is the inauguration today of the new Kantha Bopha 1, now called ”Pavillon Kantha Bopha Sihamoni Monineath”! During the Pol Pot regime the hospital served, as I heard, as a military barrak for soldiers. After that it was just a ruin: no water, no electricity, and a broken roof were left. Dr. Richner arrived in April 1992 with 60’000.- US Dollar in his pocket. With this little money he started to renovate the hospital, where in 1974 and 1975 he worked as a young pediatrician until the invasion of the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh. Dr. Richner could flee, means as a foreigner he had to leave the country. He could survive while most of his colleagues were killed. This was the reason for Dr. Richners persistent bad conscience. Only a few weeks after the Paris peace agreement he travelled to Cambodia and realized in what bad condition the health system, especially for children, at that time was. He left a very comfortable life in Switzerland, where he was a prominent pediatrician and a music clown. He often told me, that, if he would have known the difficulties waiting for him, he never would have had the courage and the will to start this adventure. Currently a journalist in Switzerland is writing a book about late Dr. Richner, and I could help him with some documents that Dr. Denis Laurent and myself have found. We realized again all the difficulties and malevolence he was facing for so many years. He was just a normal doctor who wanted to treat the children in just a normal way. For this he bought a Laboratory machine, an X-ray machine and a simple ultrasound device. Things most doctors have in their office. This was in the philosophy of WHO, UNICEF and many others a subversion of the existing health system. Dr. Richner always asked me: “how can you do subversion to something, that doesn’t exist?” But don’t let’s talk more about these difficult times and let’s enjoy the reason of this ceremony. The new Kantha Bopha 1. It was not an easy decision for the Swiss foundation to agree to destroy the old Kantha Bopha 1, while Dr. Richner was still alive, but was no more able to realize what was going on. We also informed the Palace about our plans. Your Majesties could accept immediately our reasons and You made the same day a donation of 1 Mio dollar. That was such a wonderful support and we thank You from the bottom of our hearts. But the needs were so evident, that the green light for the new construction was given by the Swiss Foundation mid June 2018. Dr. Denis Laurent, our ingenious “multitasker”, assisted by Mr. Alain Tang, designed in only a few days a marvelous new hospital, respecting the U-shape of the original hospital. He thereafter supervised the construction and ordered all the material. He did an unbelievable job! We will now have a cardiac surgery also in Phnom Penh, as well as two other operating theatres, a heart ICU, two more ICUs, one for neonates and one for older children, plus 4 ordinary wards. Tomorrow the first heart operation will be done – by our very talented Dr. Pon Ladin, assisted by Prof. René Prêtre, a well-known cardiac surgeon from Switzerland, who accomplished several missions in Siem Reap. Prof. Prêtre will contribute a very important amount of money for the new heart center by his foundation “le petit Coeur”. The Cambodian Kantha Bopha Foundation, with its honorary president prime minister Samdech Hun Sen, added also one million Dollar. The Eléctricité du Cambodge made all the electrical supply free of charge. The government of Switzerland has given an extra 500’000 USD for the new building. To all of them we like to express how much we appreciate these donations! It is such a strong sign for us, that we get the help from different sides. Thank you! It is so important, that Dr. Richners hospitals are going on in his spirit and we are grateful for the support and recognition by the Royal Government, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Economics and Finances and many others. The Hospitals under the leadership of Prof. Ky Santy, Prof. Yay Chantana and Dr. Denis Laurent, with 2500 devoted staff have proven these last months how well the hospitals are functioning, when Cambodia was hit by the worst Dengue Epidemic of all times, when thousands of children more than other years had to be treated. To me it is a wonder how they could manage this extreme situation, that I hope will never happen again. May Dr. Richner, from somewhere else, assist this new milestone of his incomparable project. Your Majesties, I thank you!