AN ACCLAIMED Ethiopian charity co-founded by Australian doctor Catherine Hamlin is at war with itself over alleged Christian bias, resulting in a mass exodus of managers, including three trustees, its on-site chief executive and medical director and the midwifery school dean and vice-dean.
The resignations were announced without Dr Hamlin's permission by Hamlin Fistula Australia, the local fund-raising arm of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, in a statement mailed to 20,000 Australian supporters. Yesterday, Dr Hamlin unleashed a torrent of criticism on her senior staff.
She accused unnamed managers of her Addis Ababa hospital - which she set up with her late husband Reg in 1974 to treat birth injuries, or fistulas, from destitute women - of alienating non-Christian supporters of the charity, which has fund-raising offices in eight countries. She called for the resignation of the HFA chairman and two board members.
Dr Hamlin said in a media release that HFE management had advised fund-raising trusts in Europe that ''if they did not share the Christian ethos and values of the statement they could not be partners, but donors only''.
''This is not the way we run this hospital,'' Dr Hamlin said. ''My staff come from many religions, as do our patients.''
Dr Hamlin said that the three Ethiopian trustees, ''with the support from Hamlin Fistula Australia, supported senior management, insisting that international partners be exclusively run by Christians''.
She said she had dismissed the acting chairman of HFE and the remaining two directors ''eventually resigned in January 2012 with the hospital's chief executive resigning shortly after''.
HFE's departing chief executive, Mark Bennett, said it was ''simply untrue'' that HFE managers had insisted on international fund-raising trusts having a Christian ethos and values.
Both Mr Bennett and the HFA executive officer Doug Marr denied they had demanded that international partners be exclusively run by Christians. ''It is sad that a fine institution is in such turmoil with conflict between people who have dedicated so much to the future of the organisation,'' Mr Bennett said.