The Fiji journalists seem to be obsessed with the terms 'fill coffers' through fundraising with a Choir Competition, and the spat between the Interim Minister of Health and the Methodist Church over a perceived debt concerning Ba Hospital.
Well, let's start at the very beginning, hey - or even with Hannah Dudley who adopted orphans in Suva, and who was feisty enough to refuse the direction of men on church committees and when they wanted her to take her orphans to Nausori, she upped and took off on a boat with them, heading for Bengal.
You see, compassion was an emphasis in the early days of the Methodist Church mission to the Indian community in Fiji - the care of orphans, the setting up of dispensaries, and then a hospital at Ba. (Education is another topic of course).
Another argumentative missionary from Australia was Rev Richard Piper who was based in Lautoka. When Dilkusha was established near Nausori, he wanted it moved to the healthier, drier Lautoka but lost that argument. He already had a farm school for boys and the Australian Methodist Church which funded Fiji's church in those days, bought a hotel with the gift from a bachelor, Mr Jasper Williams. (Many years into the future to become Jasper Williams High School).
The CSR gave some medical care for their staff and workers in those early days, but did nothing for 'free' Indian migrants, nor did the government of the day. In Ba with thousands of people, there was no hospital. The Methodist Church staff in various places had set up small dispensaries such as at Nausori and Navua. In 1913 Cyril Bavin wrote 'The Church in Australia has been asked for years to provide a hospital, and all that they have has been two dispensaries and one nurse!' The compassionate policy that began with Hannah Dudley gradually evolved slowly.
Rev Piper in 1919 stated a case for a Mission hospital for Indian women because the Government did nothing for them. In the same year J.F. Long began work at Rarawai, Ba. His wife was Dr Olive Long (nee Rivette) and she started to relieve Indian women of their ailments. So in 1924 a decision was made to build a hospital in Ba but not to exceed the cost of 2000 pounds. Local Indians raised 500 pounds. Local Fijians helped by carting river sand needed for the conrete and the CSR gave an engine and trucks for transport. So on 5 June 1926 Ba Hospital was opened.(More of this story can be found in Harold Wood's book Overseas Missions of the Australian Methodist Church Vol 111 Fiji-Indian and Rotuma.
Over the years, fees have been kept fairly low and the hospital at Namosau has been a wonderful gift to the Ba community. Our first two children were born there in the late 60s and I feel gratitude to people like Dr John Horton and Sister Satya Bali.
As funding from Australia diminished, there were financial problems, so as far as I know, the hospital was handed over to the Fiji government. So what's with this debt of nearly half a million dollars? The hospital has been a gift to the community out of compassion, but now with a well established Ministry of Health, it is time for it to become part of general health care in Fiji and a spirit of co-operation is required between church, community, and state.