Yemen Hospital Opens Doors – After Five Weeks, Workers Rejoice in Hope

Feb 11, 2003 03:33 PM EST

JIBLA, Yemen – Five weeks following the tragic shooting at Yemen, the Baptist hospital in Yibla reopened its doors. Although not at full capacity, the hospital has begun serving its public; workers anticipate a bright future.

Lee Hixon, the medical center’s business manager said the 45 bed hospital opened 14 beds in three wards in Fe.1, and is averaging about 40 clinic patients and a half-dozen surgeries each day. Last year, hospital staff members were seeing 120 to 140 patients a day and conducting 400 to 500 surgeries a month.

Two Yemeni surgeons have joined the medical staff, according to Elias Moussa, administrative associate for International Mission Board work in northern Africa and the Middle East. Hospital leaders also have received inquiries from four doctors in other countries interested in serving for at least several months.

Hixon mentioned that the hospital, which anticipated a change of administration before the shooting, is operating with a little over half of its normal staff crew.

"When we announced that we would be turning the hospital over to an indigenous group, we lost about half our [contract workers]. After Dec. 30, we lost another half," Hixon said.

Hixon believes the hospital’s contract workers are content with a transition to Yemeni administration, rejecting the thought that the murder was caused by an angry worker.

While staff members still are coping with their grief over the murders, they are moving ahead, Hixon said.

"What I'm seeing at the hospital now is normal, but it's a new normal, a different normal," he said. "There's a new boldness and a reinforced love for the people here. It's an exciting time. We're very excited to see what the Father's going to do."

The killings of prior hospital workers Bill Koehn, Martha Myers and Kathy Gariety had surprisingly planted more hope and encouragement for the hospital’s future.

"Two months ago, we were not very hopeful the hospital would reopen," he said. "But God moved to reopen it."

After the murders, the Yemeni government pledged to keep the hospital open. Both a hospital adniminstrator and nursing director with 20 years of experience were recruited for the hospital. Other Christian organizations were welcome to send their workers as well.

"The agreement with the Yemeni government provides for Southern Baptist medical workers to serve alongside Yemenis and other international workers," Moussa said. "We believe this agreement will carry the hospital to a new level of cooperation between the IMB, the Yemeni people and other Christian organizations with a heart for the people of Yemen.

"This will allow Southern Baptist workers to have an undiminished opportunity to exercise their medical skills and fulfill their calling to minister to Yemenis. It ensures that the people of Jibla will continue to have access to good medical care. It also allows the hospital to be rooted in Yemeni soil. We look for a bright future of service to the people of central Yemen."

Senior staff members were glad that the new staff members had experience in the hospital field.

"Not one member of the new team came from outside the hospital. I think that's a real testimony about what's happening in the reopening," he said. "The new administrative team is excited about the prospect of doctors and nurses coming from America, Australia, Europe or the Philippines. They are encouraging me to encourage others to come here and help out."

Now is the time, said Moussa, for the people of God to respond to the opportunity to serve in Yemen.

"Since the deaths of Martha Myers, Kathy Gariety and Bill Koehn, doors are open in Yemen as never before," he said. "Doctors and other medical professionals who want to work at Jibla hospital are encouraged to contact the International Mission Board. If God is calling you to go to Yemen, here is your opportunity. Who is willing to come?"

Hixon noted however, the greatest hindrance that came before them, after the death of the three workers; the high security detail placed in the hospital.

"Since Dec. 30, we have been under incredible security restrictions," he said. "The government imposed those restrictions in our interest. After what happened, they want to do their best to be sure it doesn't happen again.

"But that's a big concern for us. We need a little freedom to move about and do our jobs."

The greatest mark left by the tragic incident however, is the change the Yemenis felt toward the hospital, said Hixon. The Yemeni are now more involved and more aware of the hospital’s works, as evidenced by their helping find a name for the hospital.

"On Dec. 16, as we were getting ready for the transition, Bill Koehn painted out the word 'Baptist' on the hospital sign," Hixon said. "The government's temporary documents for the hospital say 'Jibla Hospital.'

"But the newspapers in Yemen are calling it the 'Hospital of Peace.' We're really hoping that is what the hospital will be called."

By Pauline C.