Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
Alex Bell hosts a special programme focusing on the fate of the Salvation Army run Howard Hospital in Chiweshe, since the chief doctor Paul Thistle was dismissed. Alex speaks to Dr. Michael Silverman, the chief coordinator of the Interfaith Friends of Howard Hospital group, which has warned that there is a looming humanitarian crisis in Chiweshe.
Canadian born Salvation Army doctor, Paul Thistle was dismissed in August 2012 under unclear circumstances, a decision that led to violent protests by outraged Chiweshe residents. The Hospital was left to run at limited capacity, and many patients were either turned away or discharged without full care, because Dr. Thistle was the chief doctor and only surgeon there.
The doctor was given 24 hours to leave the hospital and then 48 hours to leave Zimbabwe, with no explanation from the Salvation Army other than that the decision was apart of ‘internal processes’. He has been barred from the hospital, but is refusing to leave the country while a criminal case hangs over eight of his colleagues, who were arrested and charged with ‘inciting violence’ during the protests in Chiweshe.
An international network of doctors and supporters has since been trying to convince the Salvation Army to reinstate Dr. Thistle because of the looming crisis his absence has created. The Interfaith Friends of Howard Hospital group has had several meetings with the Salvation Army, both in Dr. Thistle’s native Canada and at the international headquarters in London.
But according to the group’s chief coordinator, Dr. Michael Silverman, the Salvation Army has reneged on promises it made to the group to first undergo a review of the situation at Howard Hospital, before making a final decision about Dr. Thistle’s fate. He said they have reiterated their position that Dr. Thistle must leave Zimbabwe by October 5th, despite a replacement only meant to take over at Howard Hospital in December.
“It just doesn’t make any sense. They haven’t given any explanation why he has to leave. I believe it is something internal in the Church, but they haven’t made anything clear,” Dr. Silverman said.
He explained that the situation is likely linked to a financial grant Dr. Thistle had secured for the Howard mission, which was then withdrawn because the Zim leadership of the Salvation Army refused to adhere to transparent accounting for the money. The leadership, which is believed to be heavily influenced by Joice Mujuru as a senior Salvation Army member, said it did not need to account for how the money would be spent.