PHNOM PENH, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen on Wednesday launched the Cambodia Kantha Bopha Foundation to raise funds for the country's Kantha Bopha Hospitals.
The new foundation was aimed at keeping the hospitals running after charismatic Swiss doctor and cellist Beat Richner, the 71-year-old founder of the hospitals, was seriously ill and stepped down from his position as the managing director of the hospitals in March last year.
"I can say that today is a historic day that the Cambodian children will continue to receive quality healthcare services free of charge," Hun Sen said in a speech during the launching ceremony. "This is the big relief of burden in either financial or mental aspects for all parents."
The prime minister called on the people from all walks of life to make donations to the foundation for the well-being of the Cambodian mothers and children.
Meanwhile, he announced that the government made the first donation of 10 million U.S. dollars to the foundation, and on the occasion, government officials, prominent tycoons, and the Cambodian Red Cross also contributed a total of 2.47 million U.S. dollars to the foundation.
According to the prime minister, anyone donated a minimum of 20,000 U.S. dollars would become the foundation's founding members, 5,000 U.S. dollars would be recorded as honorary members, and 15 U.S. dollars would be noted as supporting members.
Hun Sen said the Cambodia Kantha Bopha Foundation would complement the Kantha Bopha Foundation in Switzerland, which was established by Richner more than two decades ago.
Founded in 1992, the Kantha Bopha Hospitals currently have five locations, including four in capital Phnom Penh and one in northwestern Siem Reap province, said Economy and Finance Minister Aun Pornmoniroth, who serves as the president of the Cambodia Kantha Bopha Foundation.
The hospitals employed 2,345 staff and provided medical checkups and treatment to between 2,500 and 3,000 patients a day, he said, adding that the annual budget of the running costs was around 43 million U.S. dollars.
It is estimated that the hospitals provide free medical treatment to about 80 percent of the country's pediatric patients, and the main sources of funds for running the hospitals come from Swiss donors and contributions by the governments of Swiss and Cambodia.