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A Hospital in Need of Life Support

May 18, 1997|From Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — An American advising Cambodia's budding democratic politicians was among those wounded in a grenade attack that killed 16 people and injured 118 this spring.

The injury may not have been life-threatening, but Phnom Penh's decrepit, poorly equipped Calmette Hospital was another matter.

The medical assistance group covering the American flew him to Singapore within hours.

Few areas of the world offer as great a contrast in medical care as Southeast Asia. Singapore and Bangkok, Thailand, have world-class hospitals; Calmette exemplifies the other end of the scale.

In one recent case, a foreigner suffering a leg wound from an accident was to be flown to Bangkok. A Calmette doctor asked the evacuation team whether they wanted him to treat the wound. They agreed.

The team then watched in horror as the doctor fished a soiled pair of surgical gloves from a trash bin and started washing them to use again. That day's quota had already been used, he said, and the next day's was locked up.

Horrified by the risk of AIDS transmission or other infection, the team hurriedly offered to do the job with the sterile supplies on their plane.

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