|No reprieve for Howard doctor, despite protest|
|Saturday, 18 August 2012 07:55|
THE Salvation Army church will not rescind its decision to transfer Howard Mission Hospital chief medical officer Dr Paul Thistle, despite Thursday’s violent protest by villagers.
Sources said Dr Thistle would be transferred to Canada at the end of this month, a move which Salvation Army church officials refused to explain.
At least 12 villagers and members of staff at the hospital were arrested after they reportedly overturned a vehicle and stoned police officers during the protest. Police fired teargas canisters to disperse the rowdy crowd numbering over 1 000.
The pending transfer has left scores of patients from all over the country stranded.
Mashonaland Central Governor Advocate Martin Dinha yesterday said Government would not interfere in the operations of the Salvation Army.
He said a team from his office met leaders of the church on Thursday, who articulated their position.
“They told us that the Salvation Army International, that is in charge of redeployment, is the one that requested the transfer of Dr Thistle. They showed us a letter of demand from the headquarters and it seems he should have gone long back. As Government, our policy is not to interfere in the operations of the church. We just regulate, in terms of policy, health matters through the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare,” he said.
Advocate Dinha said Government respected the church’s decision.
“They have conditions of service they set for the doctor and this should be respected. As such we also value the contributions he made during his tenure as evidenced by the demonstrations by the community. We however, condemn the use of violence in solving matters. We urge the community to meet the church hierarchy peacefully,” he said.
Salvation Army runs Howard Mission Hospital in Mashonaland Central.
“Our public relations officer is in Bindura. We have nothing to say,” said an official at the church’s national headquarters in Harare, who declined to be named. This has nothing to do with the church. We might give you a comment next week.”
When The Herald visited the hospital, about 80km from Harare yesterday, Dr Thistle was not working.
Sources said he has since been stopped from seeing patients by church authorities. This resulted in scores of patients scheduled to undergo various operations being issued with referral letters to other hospitals. The patients were from as far as Plumtree, Gokwe, Centenary and Harare. “What I know is that Dr Thistle is leaving this hospital on August 31. So, he has been relieved of his duties and cannot see patients,” a source at the hospital said.
Stranded patients had no kind words for the church administration. They accused the church of being insensitive to the plight of the sick and urged Government to intervene.
“The doctor has been transferred and who is going to attend to us?” said Mr Samson Mafirowonda, who was due for a hernia operation.
Miss Nomvela Tshuma said she was due to undergo a tubal insufflation operation after travelling from Plum-tree. “I am disappointed. I was referred to this hospital, but we were told the doctor is going away and cannot operate patients. This is disheartening,” she said.
Mr Bishop Sibindi from Centenary said: “This doctor has saved so many lives and they want this community to suffer because of personal agendas. Government should immediately intervene and serve people’s lives.”
Mrs Norma Tafa, an HIV and Aids counsellor who has worked for the hospital since 1996, questioned the transfer. “There must be something sinister in the church and this has to be exposed,” she said. “We have other people like Dr Watt who left the hospital on their own accord. So, why are they chasing away Thistle?”
Mashonaland Central acting provincial police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Petros Masikati said the 12 suspects were still assisting them with investigations.