Yemeni Government Appoints Administrator to Complete Transition at Jibla Hospital

Jan 11, 2003 06:51 PM EST

RICHMOND, Va. - In continuing the transition of the Baptist hospital in Jibla, Yemen from being lead by the International Mission Board to a nonreligious Yemeni charity, Yemen's health minister has named a temporary administer and nursing director to operate the hospital until further details about the facility's future can be worked out.

The transition began in September when the IMB reached an agreement with the PCS to assume the costs of operating the hospital; the IMB would continue providing personnel to minister the 45 bed medical center.

However, due to the a complicated timetable which called for a switchover by the end of the year, coupled with the December 30th attack at the hospital, the transition had not progressed.

"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."

The attack of the gunman came at the end of the year, while the details of the transfer was still being worked out. Rankin, the head of the IMB said that as the end of the year approached, the hospital members were preparing to temporarily suspend operations until the transfer could be completed.

A lone gunman sneaked a semiautomatic onto hospital grounds and killed three workers: Physician Martha Myers, administrator Bill Koehn and purchasing manager Kathy Gariety were killed. 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 Elias Moussa, 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," Moussa 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 IMB sought out the transition because though the hospital was established by Southern Baptists 35 years ago, the Southern Baptists had not been able to fill the positions fully. For several years the board employed medical workers from other countries at $500,000 annually.

"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."

Yemen's health ministry has ensured the continuing operation of the hospital, 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, Moussa 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," Moussa 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."

By Pauline C.