PHNOM PENH -- At the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in central Phnom Penh, Cheum Sor, 61, is lying on the hospital floor with an intravenous drip attached to his arm. The gloomy, crowded ward does not have any air conditioning or even a nurse call button. His wife, Chan Theng, 54, sits beside him the whole day to fan him and summon the nurse if something goes wrong.
The couple gave up their job as contract farmers, where they had earned $3 a day, to come to this public hospital from Kandal Province next to the capital, when Cheum Sor developed high blood pressure. Having been designated "poor," he can receive medical treatments here for free.