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Infant mortality in Cambodia is being reduced with Czech help

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While as late as 1990 the WHO reported 116 deaths for every 1,000 births in Cambodia, the situation has now improved fourfold. This is credited to a Czech Development Agency project through which health care equipment and neonatal tools, including incubators, were provided to the Pediatric Hospital in Phnom Penh. This leading clinic specializing in procedures typically beyond the capacity of regional hospitals examines some 20,000 pediatric patients every year.

Despite the significant improvement in Cambodia’s infant mortality rates to a level similar to that of Indonesia or the Philippines, according to the WHO care for mothers and children here continues to lag behind. This is due to the poor quality of health care services provided in the state and private sectors and low availability of care – particularly for residents in remote rural areas. One problem is a lack of qualified health care personnel or outdated or non-functioning hospital equipment. For this reason, the project “Development of Neonatal Departments in National Pediatric Hospital” contributes to an increase in the quality of health care services provided in the field of neonatal medicine by educating health care personnel and improving technical equipment.

“The project for support of the neonatal ward, provided in coordination with the Cambodian Ministry of Health and in close cooperation with NPN, has taken place over several phases.  In addition to the delivery of equipment, Czech specialists in neonatal care from General University Hospital in Prague have become involved, contributing to training hospital staff. Yet another project is being planned as well, in which Czechia is seeking to create a new university discipline of biomedical engineering. The goal is to cover the demand for specialists capable of maintaining and repairing health care instruments. The lack of these skills has often prevented full use of health care equipment and its stable maintenance including minor repairs,” Štěpán Vojnár of the Czech Embassy in Phnom Penh describes the project.

The gala presentation of the health care equipment took place in the presence of the Cambodian Minister of Health, Mam Bunhenga, and chargé d’affaires a.i. Vlastimil Tesař in mid-January of this year. Altogether 31 health care devices including phototherapy lamps, life function monitors, pulse oximetry, heating pads, bilirubinometer, cooling equipment for hypothermic treatment, blood gas analyzer, ventilators for mechanical ventilation of newborns and neonatal incubators in total value of CZK 7,900,000. “The newborn incubators, heating pads, and phototherapy lamps are from the České Budějovice company TSE. TSE representatives first met with hospital leadership in March of last year to discuss opportunities for collaboration. Their specialists then had the opportunity to become familiar with this equipment in Czech health care facilities. The actual delivery and installation including user trainings was provided by another Czech company, Medsol,” says Lucie Chudá of the Czech embassy in Phnom Penh.

A chance for other Czech companies with health care equipment

The instruments will allow the Cambodian experts to provide professional and multilateral care for newborns who are brought to the national hospital when health complications exceed the capabilities of provincial health care facilities. The equipment provided by the Czech Republic thereby contribute to rescuing the health and lives of newborns from all over the country.

During the gala presentation, Minister of Health Mam Bunhenga stressed that the Cambodian kingdom deeply appreciates the development assistance provided by the Czech Republic in support of the public health care system. He stated that the equipment received undoubtedly increases the quality of health care at NPN and considers that it could support the declared goal of the Cambodian government of reducing the infant mortality rate by half. He also accentuated the role of NPN in disseminating experience with preventive and therapeutic procedures with health care facilities throughout the country.

“Even though the three-year development project with the National Pediatric Hospital was to be completed this year, there could be potential here to deepen our collaboration in neonatology and perinatology. For Czech companies interest in delivering health care equipment to Cambodia is the most suitable path to establish contacts within the local private sector, which dominates the health care system in terms of coverage and patient trust.  The collaboration with private providers and distributors should be the main goal of their interest. Apart from this, it offers certain opportunities in international development partnerships. Here it is worth recommending the now relatively well-known Program B2B from the Czech Development Agency,” adds Štěpán Vojnár.

This project is now the ninth health care project financed by the Czech Republic focused on improving maternal-fetal medicine. Since 2010 the Czech Republic has contributed CZK 74.3 million in development aid to Cambodia thus far and has thereby helped the overall improvement in maternal-fetal care in the country.

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