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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Surgeons react to hospital transitionscomment (0)

January 3, 2013

By Grace Thornton


Oftentimes with heartbreaks you can look back and see that, in the end, you came out stronger. Better. More able to live well, and to sacrifice well.

But that doesn’t change the fact that, at the moment of the break, the pain is often hard to bear and hard to understand.

Rebekah Naylor said that’s exactly what happened when she first heard the International Mission Board (IMB) was going to sell Bangalore Baptist Hospital (BBH) in India. She invested her life there as a missionary surgeon. She was with the hospital nearly from its inception. She saw its wards filled with patients. And then she heard the IMB was pulling out.

“I was told to sell the hospital. It was out of the blue,” said Naylor, an emeritus missionary surgeon who served a total of 35 years at the hospital. “At that point in the process, I would certainly admit that I as well as my national colleagues felt abandoned by the IMB.”

Her national colleagues were more able than she was to vocalize openly their concerns about future finances, how the hospital would go on and how the patients would be served. She was the only missionary still at BBH, and her role at that point was to make her colleagues feel good about the transition.

“As the leader, I was leading them to look positively on the situation and the future,” Naylor said. “But honestly we didn’t know if we could make it or not.”

She was under “tremendous pressure.”

Naylor spent a couple of years “going all over India” trying to sell the hospital, but buyers were skeptical, she said. Why would a mission board sell a hospital if the institution wasn’t in trouble?

“They couldn’t understand the change in philosophy (away from owning medical institutions),” Naylor said.

And even if she did find someone willing to take the risk, they couldn’t afford it. To transfer the deed, the government required a hefty tax — 14 percent of the hospital’s market value.

“No buyer could afford to pay the tax, and neither could the IMB,” Naylor said.

So after two years of her hunting a buyer, the IMB decided not to sell it after all, she said. They sought a management partnership with a local medical college instead. 

“What the IMB brought to the table was a viable, excellent institution where the spiritual priorities were firmly in place — to draw people to Jesus Christ,” Naylor said. The medical college also brought a variety of offerings, she said. (See story, page 4.)

“I knew at the time and certainly in retrospect that it was very God-ordained and arranged,” she said. It had the potential to not work out amicably, “but it has been a wonderful relationship,” she said. “It is truly a success story.”

Where the IMB-run facility had 100 beds, the college-run hospital has 300. New programs abound. And when Naylor gathers with hospital leaders and staff this month to mark the hospital’s 40th anniversary, it will be a joyous celebration, she said.

“The result of the transition is that the hospital has been and is today an institution that is probably much bigger and much more far reaching in its effectiveness than it ever would’ve been or could’ve been had it stayed with the IMB,” Naylor said. “Of course at the time we didn’t know that, but in hindsight it’s very evident that God used all of this in a remarkable way.”

For general surgeon Don Meier, the story had a not-so-happy ending, he said.

When he moved his family to Nigeria in 1982, the IMB had already turned the hospital there over to Nigeria’s Baptist convention. “We had a nicely functioning hospital at the beginning, but the hospital has almost no patients now,” Meier said. “From a numbers standpoint, it has gone way down since the expatriates left.”

He moved back to the U.S. in 1999 knowing that when he did, it would leave a hole, he said. “IMB didn’t take away the missionaries there, but they let us know they would not replace us.”

Meier said part of his role was to train Nigerian general practitioners to build village hospitals and “practice high-quality medicine in Jesus’ name.”

“As long as we were there and working with (staff doctors), things were really good,” he said. “We look back with fond memories ... but we felt we were disenfranchised by our sending agency.”

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