An Update on Howard Hospital


Howard Hospital is a Salvation Army facility situated in the Chiweshe communal land of Zimbabwe, which is 80 kilometres north of the capital of Harare.

Howard Hospital has a rich history of serving the needs of those in the surrounding communities. The Salvation Army began Howard as a school in 1923. As the need for a regional health care provider became apparent, the facility grew into a primary-care hospital.

The Salvation Army’s vision for Howard has always been that of a rural hospital providing the best possible primary care to those seeking its services. These sustainable goals remain the vision for the future, and for the good of all people.

Over recent months, The Salvation Army has been maligned and falsely accused of wrongdoing. Allegations have been made concerning the administration of donated funds and goods at Howard Hospital. In response, The Salvation Army’s International Headquarters sent a fact-finding team to Zimbabwe to examine the processing and use of donations to the hospital.

The team reported that:
• There was no sign that goods or funds donated directly to The Salvation Army in Canada for use by the Howard Hospital were diverted from their original purpose.
• The hospital continues to operate with qualified medical personnel serving thousands of people each month.
• Media reports that the hospital is functioning at 10% are false. Patients continue to be treated at Howard and more difficult cases are being referred to other facilities.

For the past 17 years, Dr. Paul Thistle, a Canadian-born medical doctor trained at the University of Toronto, has served at Howard Hospital. He, along with his wife Pedrinah, a Zimbabwean-born nurse/midwife, are also Salvation Army officers.

Salvation Army officers are regularly transferred to different appointments. Captains Dr. Paul and Pedrinah Thistle have done an extraordinary job in Zimbabwe and we are grateful to them for that service. Effective September 2012, they were released from their duties at Howard Hospital in order to return to Canada.

Reports have circulated in the media that the Thistles were moved because they brought accusations of corruption against The Salvation Army in Zimbabwe. These reports are simply not true and at no time were such concerns shared with Salvation Army leadership by either of them.

The decisions related to Captains Dr. Paul and Pedrinah Thistle are final. The Salvation Army, like most denominations, does not discuss personnel moves in a public forum.

The Salvation Army Canada remains committed to the work of Howard Hospital. Over the past few weeks and months, the organization:
• paid for a shipment of medical supplies worth $300,000;
• paid overdue bills totaling $30,000 to keep the electricity on;
• paid $15,000 for much-needed pharmaceutical supplies.

The Army in Canada is also eager to work with all willing partners to support the work of Howard Hospital. Countless Canadian donors support the Army’s work in developing countries and by following strict Canadian governmental regulations for all such projects, The Salvation Army in Canada is confident that the public will continue to support this vital facility in Zimbabwe.

Furthermore, arrangements are being made for Canadian Salvation Army staff to be on the ground to assist in the development of a proposal to address specific sustainability concerns over the next number of months.

The Salvation Army’s International Headquarters is in the process of appointing a new Chief Medical Officer at Howard. Currently Dr. Aaron Museka, a well-qualified Zimbabwean doctor, is the acting Chief Medical Officer.

The needs at Howard Hospital are great and The Salvation Army remains committed to its message of hope and to the continuing development of sustainable health-care services at Howard Hospital.




The hospital may not be functioning at 10%, but it is clearly operating at a much reduced level since the removal of Dr Thistle. Can the SA now explain why the Thistles were removed on such short notice? Without a new CMO ready to immediately step in? I would still like to hear what position is awaiting the Thistles in Canada that is more suited to their skills than the work they were doing at Howard. Maybe if these issues are addressed I will have some confidence in the SA’s management of Howard. Right now it still looks like a mess, and a shameful treatment of the Thistles after many years of extraordinary service.

Brian Simard

What a pack of lies…..

you will never see another dime from me.

Elizabeth Argent

The SA would have you believe that they are the innocent victims of a smear campaign. Shame on you. This release is nothing more that shameless propaganda meant to smooth the waters for future donations. My advice – donate to World Vision, Foster Parent’s Plan or any other charity that chooses to be accountable to its donors. Money is still missing. Money that was asked to be reutrned has not been returned and further Howard Hospital is now being touted as a primary care hospital. That was not the vision for Howard. Dr. Thistle was never in attendance as a primary care physician. He is a gifted surgeon and he utilized those skills on a daily basis. Contrary to the SA statement that it is not, Howard is working at a much diminished capacity. We have had a first-hand account from staff at Howard, who report that as of November 9, 2012 there was no sign of a container of medical/pharmaceutical supplies and in fact the pharmacy hasn’t even the basic much needed drugs in its inventory such as Ibuprofen and Amoxicillin. There are a total of approximately 144 beds at Howard. On November 9th five of the thirty-two beds in the male ward were occupied, seven of the thirty-two beds were occupied in the female ward, twenty of the forty beds were occupied in the Children’s and Therapeutic wards. These are wards that under Dr. Thistle’s leadership were full to capacity every day and in many cases there were makeshift beds set up on the floor to accommodate overflow. The morning of November 9th there were 30 people lined up at the outpatient clinic when the hospital opened. This is in stark contrast to 100 on a slow day and 200-300 on a normal day, every day, some even sleeping on the ground overnight to be first in line. So you see, although the numbers may not be as low as they originally were when the crisis first started, they are still abysmal compared to Howard’s better days when it was serving the community and doing what it was meant to do. The question remains, where are all those people going now for their medical needs, those in the community, those who cannot afford state medical care, these are the people that Howard cared for. We respect that the employees who are sharing this information wish to remain anonymous. They are fearful for their welfare and speaking out could cost them their livelihood or worse their life. This fear is very real as was evidenced by the 8 nurses who were arrested, imprisoned and tortured when they spoke out against SA Leadership in Zimbabwe at a protest shortly after Dr. Thistle’s removal from Howard.
Again, I say, shame on you!

Todd Leach

You reported that The Salvation Army’s International Headquarters sent a fact-finding team to Zimbabwe to examine the processing and use of donations to the hospital and you reported their findings. On the same page as your report you ask the question at the top of your website “Why Support?” One of the reasons you ask for support is “Accountability and Transparency.” It is fundamentally important that any internal investigations be conducted from an objective, independent, third party approach. The only way to determine if this has in fact been the case The Salvation Army needs to release the report to the public in order for us to make our own informed decision. That is being accountable and transparent. However, if The Salvation Army has not conducted this investigation with a third party approach then the report is self-serving and unreliable.


This is absolutely ridiculous and a boldface lie. To say that there have not been problems with funds and resources being diverted and delayed is incorrect. It is a well known fact. Also, to pull out servants of The Lord abruptly and unwillingly while they are doing excellent work is preposterous. You have created division and a house divided unto itself will not stand (Matthew 12: 25). The Salvation Army is what it is because the people have built it, donated and sacrificed yet a few hierarchal administrators speak against the will of the people. They are behaving like Pharisees and Sadducees and do not have my support, time or money.

Hilary Jackson

I would assume that outside auditors have been asked to go to Howard in order to gain the confidence of doners. If allegations of misused funds are false then The Salvation Army will need to do all it can to gain back the confidence of supporters. When there are allegations of wrong doing in a company it is understood that outside auditors are used. Surley this also applies to Howard hospital.
My respect for Dr. Thistle who stood by the faithful nurses who risked their lives being arrested because they believed in the ministry of The Salvation Army health care.
A doctor takes an oath to save lives. A Salvation Army officer signs a covenant to serve God and The Salvation Army officer. i would think that consideration is respected when a qualified doctor is an officer,. Would we want it any other way?

Elizabeth Argent

I believe that the SA tells the truth but only by a glaring act of omission. By saying that “There was no sign that goods or funds donated directly to The Salvation Army in Canada for use by the Howard Hospital were diverted from their original purpose.” they are being truthful.
However, the majority of projects at Howard do not go through the SA in Canada. They were run directly from donor to hospital, eg, USAID, Stephen Lewis, Global Fund. This is also the policy of the Zimbawean Association of Church Hospitals, an umbrella organization of 120 mission hospitals.
These direct donor projects are where the discrepancies occurr.
An independent audit would certainly show this.
When you know how to spin the press release, you can make the water look good on the surface even though it’s a cesspool underneath.

Lorna simard

Has anyone been following Doug MacLellan’s photo blog? Having been to the Howard four times in previous years, the Army has used his photos sometimes in the past in their periodicals for articles on the Howard.

Doug went back to Zimbabwe, however, he was denied access to the Howard compound on November 15th (last Thursday), I wonder why? One would think TSA would be happy to have a photographer confirm their story that “• Media reports that the hospital is functioning at 10% are false.”

Mr. MacLellan has posted photos on his internet blog at the following link :

Not allowed in the compound, this Canadian photographer posted a photo taken Nov. 15th outside the main entrance of the Howard. His comment says that normally it would be a scene of people crowding at the entrance waiting for admission. The scene is empty of people. That very day statistics coming out of the Howard by phone call to Canada, report the following staff estimates: of inpatients, and they are somewhat up: Male Ward: 3, Female Ward 8; Children’s Ward: 10; Maternity 12, total 33 – still far less than the normal average of inpatients, maybe a little over 10%, but not by much.

Could TSA kindly answer the following questions:
1. Why was this photographer (known to them) barred entrance to the Howard compound Nov. 15th?
2. Why are Capt Dr. Paul and Pedrinah Thistle not permitted. to work at the Howard until their replacement arrives, when they are available in Zimbabwe and willing to continue their work?
3. Why is TSA standing by as people die for needed surgery (according to reports coming out of Zimbabwe) while TSA has a surgeon on the ground but have removed him from his practice?

Question #3 is obviously a huge ethical question especially as TSA has forced a physician to break his oath by forcing him out of his practice without a suitable replacement in place.

I agree with Hilary Jackson’s comment above that TSA should have had an external investigation done given the seriousness of this situation. Officers conducting an internal investigation obviously have a conflict of interest.

Brian Nichols

We mistakenly believed that if we gave people the correct information (told the truth about Howard Hospital and corruption) that it would lead to right action. We were proven wrong by The Salvation Army. Lying or telling the truth is a choice and we are left raging against the lies in this press release. I feel solidarity with the people of Cheweshe who are left to suffer without adequate health care and anger towards The SA who are standing by and watching this happen.

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