By Ding Zi, Zhang Zhiwen, Zhao Yipu
On the morning of May 10, 20 brand-new buses bearing the national flags of both China and Cambodia parked neatly at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital (KSFH) in Phnom Penh. They represented the first group of 20 mobile clinics donated by China to Cambodia. The buses started their journey on March 27 in Suzhou, eastern China’s Jiangsu Province, and exited China via Pingxiang, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, before finally arriving in Cambodia.
In recent days, to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Cambodia, numerous Chinese-funded projects related to improving the health of Cambodian people have been launched in Cambodia, injecting new impetus into the in-depth development of bilateral relations.
Mobile Clinics for Remote Communities
The mobile clinics are 12-meter-long medical buses, each equipped with more than 20 pieces of modern, highly integrated equipment such as a digital X-ray unit, color ultrasound, dental chair, automatic biochemical analyzer, blood cell analyzer and general diagnosis system to meet the needs of pediatrics, general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, dentistry, otolaryngology and other fields. To ensure the quality of the mobile clinics, the Chinese donors selected the most esteemed brands of buses and diagnostic equipment available in China.
“I’ve visited many Western countries, but never seen such amazing mobile clinics with such advanced equipment,” gasped Tep Kaira, director of Cambodia’s National Quality Supervision Center for Health Products. “We sincerely thank China for the timely assistance.”
According to Xiong Bo, Chinese ambassador to Cambodia, the mobile clinics are “Health Express” buses that the Chinese government and people present to Cambodian people to provide on-the-spot primary care for the patients in remote rural Cambodian communities.
“These mobile clinics are precious gifts from China,” declared Mam Bunheng, Cambodian Minister of Health, with delight at the handover ceremony. “The buses suit the national conditions of Cambodia. They will help us provide medical services to remote rural communities.” Mam believes that the mobile clinics will support the development of Cambodia’s healthcare system while solidifying the traditional friendship and win-win cooperation between Cambodia and China.
Son Samee, a doctor with the Emergency Department of the KSFH, took pictures with colleagues in front of the buses. He explained that in the rural areas along the Mekong River, geographical constraints have caused a shortage of medical care. “When these mobile clinics begin operation, they will definitely improve the local medical conditions,” he opined. To ensure the maximized use of mobile clinics, full-time engineers were assigned to the buses. Training courses will be organized before the mobile clinics are deployed to remote rural areas for free consultations. The second group of 20 more buses will be delivered before the end of October this year.
Kind Chinese Doctors
“Oh dear, you are nearsighted by two diopters,” sighed a Chinese doctor to Ly Yenchay, a 14-year-old Cambodian primary school student, after testing her eyesight. “Don’t worry: We’ll order a pair of glasses for you from China and send them to you by mail,” the doctor said.
“The Chinese doctors are sending me a pair of glasses,” exclaimed Ly. “They also advised me to watch less TV, eat more vegetables and correct my bad eye habits. The Chinese doctors are very kind!”
A Mekong Brightness Action medical team from China arrived in Cambodia alongside the mobile clinics. Since mid-May, the team has been conducting eye exams in four primary and secondary schools in Phnom Penh and Preah Sihanouk. An estimated 3,400 students will be examined, 20 percent of whom will require and receive optometric services. New glasses will be customized in China and shipped to the Cambodian kids.
Eye exam consists of eyesight testing, ophthalmic examination, computer optometry, comprehensive optometry and a diagnosis check, a process that takes 15 to 20 minutes. The doctors maintain intense concentration during each step of the process. “Ultraviolet radiation is strong in Southeast Asia,” revealed Cao Yingpin, a Chinese doctor. “The children here are more susceptible to pterygium and cataracts. Nearly 60 percent of them are either far or near-sighted.”
“In seven days, we examined the eyes of children in four schools,” reported Dai Hongbin, director from the Pediatric Ophthalmology Department of Wuhan Aier Eye Expert Hospital while parsing some exam results. “It was hard work, but as doctors and Chinese citizens, we feel duty-bound to provide the Cambodian school children with all the assistance they need.”
Onsanomao, Cambodia’s deputy secretary of state for health, enthusiastically praised the Mekong Brightness Action program. “Eye health is important for everyone, especially growing teenagers,” she commented, noting that the program would unveil to Cambodian teenagers the bright future of Cambodia-China friendship.
While continuing special medical assistance programs, the Chinese government has been actively improving the medical hardware and the capability building of Cambodia. For example, at the beginning of this year, the leaders of the two governments launched a grant aid project for the Cambodia-China Friendship Hospital Building and the Tbong Khmum Provincial Hospital. Upon completion, the Cambodia-China Friendship Hospital Building will provide about 400 beds amid total floor space of 29,000 square meters including functional rooms for all departments and corresponding support rooms and medical equipment.
“The Cambodia-China Friendship Hospital will be Cambodia’s first public hospital designed and built with modern medical philosophy,” explained Ding Jian, chief architect from China Zhongyuan International Engineering Company and designer of the building. “It will greatly improve the diagnosis and treatment capacity of Cambodia’s public hospitals and play a lead role in Cambodia’s medical and healthcare development.”
According to bilateral agreements, alongside more support for Cambodian medical care in terms of hardware, China will also increase professional exchange with Cambodian health care personnel. Pan Xiangbin, director of the Cardiac Surgery Ward of Beijing Fuwai Hospital, revealed that his hospital is planning to provide Cambodian patients with more volunteer medical consultation. They are also planning to help Cambodia establish a system to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases to bring them under permanent control.
Mam believes that these achievements are the results of China’s support for Cambodia’s medical services, which has tremendously improved the healthcare available to Cambodian people. He believes that the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative presents an important opportunity for further development of Cambodia-China relations. “This great initiative will bring tangible health benefits to the Cambodian people and win genuine popular support,” he added.