Howard Hospital violence case postponed again

Villager shows some teargas cannisters used by police on nursing staff during the protest

By Alex Bell
02 November 2012

The trial over a violent protest in Chiweshe in August continues to limp forward, with the case being postponed once again.

20 people, including eight nurses from the Salvation Army run Howard Hospital, were originally being tried in connection with the protest, organised by angry residents over the dismissal of the hospital’s chief doctor.

Almost three months later the case is still before the courts. 16 members of the accused group were acquitted last month because of a lack of evidence. But four individuals still remain on remand, with the case now only set to resume next week.

Meanwhile there is ongoing speculation about what the future holds for the hospital, which local residents have told SW Radio Africa has not returned to its usual standards since Dr. Paul Thistle was dismissed.

The doctor’s removal caused outcry, because of the work he had done to turn the Howard mission into a highly respected medical facility. He was also considered a valued member of the community, after living there for more than 16 years.

His dismissal, which the Salvation Army has insisted is a standard ‘reassignment’, is understood to be linked to concerns he raised about financial mismanagement at the Zimbabwe chapter of the church group. An investigation was launched after Dr. Thistle was forced out of the hospital, but the Salvation Army insists nothing irregular was found during this audit.

These results have not been made public. But questions have since been asked about what was really discovered, following the subsequent ‘reassignment’ of the Zim Salvation Army chief Vinece Chigariro. She has been reassigned to Kenya.

Dr. Thistle remains in Zimbabwe, but has not been allowed to return to the hospital. It is not clear what his future holds either, but SW Radio Africa has learned he plans to return to his native Canada with his family over Christmas.

A source in Chiweshe said on Friday that there is widespread speculation that Dr. Thistle will return to Zimbabwe after Christmas to head another medical facility.

The Salvation Army is yet to make any further comment about the situation.

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