Three million people in and around the Cambodian city of Siem Reap will benefit from a new eye hospital that opened this week - built through the support of The Fred Hollows Foundation and the Australian Government.

Speaking at the opening ceremony for Siem Reap Regional Hospital, Foundation Board member Sarah Elliott said the new hospital shows what can be done when people who want to create a better future work together.

"Fred Hollows believed that everyone had the right to the best medical care. And he believed that no one should go blind needlessly," Elliott said.

"What we are celebrating here is much more than staff and a new building. This new facility will make a tremendous difference to lives of the three million people it will serve.

"We are honoured and very proud to partner with our good friends and colleagues in Cambodia as part of that work."

In late 2007 The Foundation received a request from Cambodia's National Program for Eye Health to build a new facility, replacing existing services in Siem Reap.

At that time these services were in a state of disrepair - deemed unhygienic, overcrowded and unable to meet the growing demands for services in the region.

"The old building was small and not comfortable for the patient," says local eye surgeon Dr Kong Sunly. "The operating theatre was also small and made it more difficult for our eye team to conduct surgery."

The new Siem Reap Regional Hospital is a three-story facility that will quadruple patient intake and provide treatment for cataract, glaucoma, refraction and other eye diseases. The hospital will also become an important training centre for surgeons and eye health workers, teaching them skills they need to help restore sight.

In addition, eye health services provided by the new facility will reach patients in more isolated parts of the country through outreach eye clinics. During a recent eye camp in the province of Odor Meanchey, over 170 patients received eye examinations and around 100 received sight restoring cataract surgery. Eye health workers on this eye camp were trained by The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Dr Kong said the new hospital will encourage more people to seek treatment for blindness-causing eye conditions.

"I'm very, very happy when I operate on a patient and the next day they can see the real world again. The patient is also very happy - both sides are very happy," he said.

"That patient will go back to the community and spread the information to their relatives and others in the village so more people will know about us and they will come when they have any eye problem."

The Foundation has constructed and renovated six eye facilities in Cambodia since beginning work there in 1998. In that time, more than 6,000 cataract operations have been performed and 45,000 Cambodians screened for eye conditions.

The Fred Hollows Foundation receives funding through the Australian Government's Avoidable Blindness Initiative to reduce avoidable blindness in seven provinces of Cambodia and the municipality of Phnom Penh.

Partners in The Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium are: The Fred Hollows Foundation, CBM Australia, ICEE, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Foresight Australia, Royal Institute of Deaf and Blind Children, Vision Australia and the Centre for Eye Research Australia.

The objective of the Australian Government's aid program, delivered by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), is to assist developing countries to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development, in line with Australia's national interest. 

>Learn more about our Cambodia program.