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Yemeni government appoints administrator to complete transition at Jibla hospital

REVISED Nov. 6, 2007

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The Dec. 30 shootings at the Baptist hospital in Jibla, Yemen, disrupted an already complicated process of turning over responsibility for the facility to a nonreligious Yemeni charity, two Southern Baptist missionary leaders explained Jan. 9.

Now Yemen’s health minister has named an administrator and a nursing director to get the hospital operating again until details about the facility’s future can be worked out.

In September, the International Mission Board reached an agreement for the People’s Charitable Society to assume the costs of running the hospital. In return, the IMB agreed to continue providing personnel to minister at the 45-bed medical center.

The transition, however, had not progressed according to the timetable, which called for a switchover at the end of the year, said IMB President Jerry Rankin.

“The charity is headed by a Yemeni physician who also serves as the country’s foreign minister,” Rankin explained. “The demands of his government position have greatly increased in recent months as Yemen has had to deal with pressing issues of terrorist cells at home, complications in its relationships with the United States and the confrontation between the United Nations and Iraq.”

As the end of the year approached, details of the transfer had not been worked out, and hospital staff members were preparing to temporarily suspend operations until the transfer could be completed, Rankin said.

Then came Dec. 30.

A gunman sneaked a semiautomatic pistol past soldiers guarding the hospital and shot four Southern Baptist workers. Physician Martha Myers, administrator Bill Koehn and purchasing manager Kathy Gariety were killed, and pharmacist Don Caswell was seriously injured. The hospital was locked down as most of the Southern Baptist workers gathered in the capital, Sanaa, to minister to each other.

The attack created even more uncertainty about the transition of the hospital, said Edward Matthews*, administrative associate for IMB work in northern Africa and the Middle East. Southern Baptist workers had affirmed their desire to continue at the hospital and the IMB remained committed to providing staff, but it was unclear who would eventually assume operational responsibility for the facility.

Southern Baptists established the hospital 35 years ago on land owned by the Yemeni government. IMB workers operated the medical center under a contract with Yemen’s Ministry of Health that had to be renewed each year.

On Jan. 2, Yemen’s health minister, Abdel Nasser Munibari, named an administrator, Abdel Karim Hassen, and a nursing director, Abdel Karim Ali, to get the hospital up and running until details about the facility’s future can be worked out. The new administrator and nursing director both have more than 20 years experience working with the Jibla hospital.

“We were extremely pleased when these two were named,” Matthews said. “They are completely qualified for the position. They are known and trusted by all the staff at Jibla. They understand the value of the hospital in meeting the healthcare needs of the city and are committed to keeping the hospital open to Southern Baptist workers God is calling to serve there.”

The International Mission Board was working toward the transition because Southern Baptists had not been coming forward to fill 35 medical positions at the hospital. As a result, the board had to employ medical workers from other countries at an annual cost of about $500,000. Finding another group to assume that responsibility would free those financial resources to expand Southern Baptist ministry efforts in the country.

“For more than two years, the board tried to recruit other Great Commission Christian groups to assume the responsibility, but the few who expressed interest — in spite of reports to the contrary — were unable to demonstrate they could provide the needed operating capital,” Rankin said. “When the Peoples Charitable Society, a Yemeni charity whose identity is not religious, expressed interest this past August, we saw it as an answer to prayer.”

Now Yemen’s health ministry has stepped in to guarantee that the hospital continues to operate, but no one is certain how the transition eventually will be worked out or what the final role of the charity group will be, Rankin said. Other organizations willing to help would be welcomed, and the IMB has promised to help ensure the hospital’s future.

Seven IMB workers had committed to working at the hospital after the transition, Matthews said, but the murders reduced that number to three or four. Sixteen contract workers employed by the IMB also will stay. A few IMB workers either have not yet decided whether to stay or may return to the United States at least temporarily.

“Our hearts are with the people of Jibla and we want Southern Baptists to serve there as long as they have that opportunity,” Matthews said. “The outpouring of sympathy we saw after the murders showed that the people of Jibla want us to be there. The IMB promised to continue providing medical staff for the hospital as part of the transfer agreement, and we intend to keep that promise.”
*Name changed for security reasons.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: HOSPITAL TRANSFER and JIBLA BAPTIST HOSPITAL.
The International Mission Board (www.imb.org) is a Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program (www.cpmissions.net) and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (ime.imb.org).
— What could you do overseas? going.imb.org/whatcanido.asp.

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  • Mark Kelly