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Sex police - Seventh-day Adventist-operated hospital threatens to dismiss staff guilty of fornication or adultery

Published:Friday | June 3, 2016 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Andrew's Memorial Hospital
Efforts to get a comment from Dr Marvin Rouhotas, CEO at Andrew's Memorial Hospital, were unsuccessful last week.

Administrators at the Seventh-day Adventist-operated Andrews Memorial Hospital have threatened disciplinary action, up to dismissal, of members of staff who commit the 'biblical sins' of fornication or adultery.

This is part of what the hospital says is its effort to uphold "high moral and ethical standards".

The threat was contained in a letter dated March 27, 2015 by the then chief executive officer, Dr Patric Rutherford, who has since retired.

The letter also said employees involved in theft, murder, loud and lascivious behaviour and sexual harassment would suffer the same fate.

Staffers were issued with the letter in 2015 but reports are that after an unmarried nurse became pregnant this year, it became mandatory for all female employees employed in 2016 to sign the agreement and a copy placed on their file.

The letter said breaches were not confined to the named sins.

"As a Seventh-day Adventist institution, Andrews Memorial Hospital upholds the highest moral standards. We are responsible first to God, our Creator, and we accept the challenge to be exemplary individuals and corporate citizens," said the administrators in the letter.

"We will carry on (our) activities in compliance with the laws of the land, provided they are not in contradiction to God's expressed will ..." the administrators added.

But as news that the contents of the letter reached our newsroom last week, members of staff were called to a meeting last Tuesday and threats of more sanction were reportedly issued if anyone was found to have leaked the document.

Sunday Gleaner sources say it was reiterated that members of staff should keep their randiness under control as lecherous behaviour would not be tolerated.

The relative of a staff member then became furious and called our newsroom.

"It seems as if they are targeting females in particular and nurses specifically. I don't know if Andrews Hospital has any nurses there who are under 18 years old. If you are over 18 years, already a nurse and pregnant, you are an adult.

"So what is Andrews now, judge, jury and executioner?" asked June Smith*, whose relative is employed at the hospital.

Smith argued that the letter was unconstitutional and offensive and should be withdrawn immediately.

She said a nurse who became pregnant out of wedlock was told not to enter the hospital through its front entrance but through the back doors.

But this was rejected by an official of the hospital who asked not to be named, as he is not the person designated to speak.

"I cannot imagine an unmarried nurse being asked to walk through the back door. That sounds ridiculous. It is not something that the hospital would do. Honestly, I cannot imagine that happening," said the official.

"But there is code of conduct that deals with sexual harassment in the entire Seventh-day Adventist Church. Members of staff of the hospital who are Adventists know of rules and regulations under which they are employed," added the official.

He said hospital administrators met with the staff last year to remind them of their rights and responsibilities, including some of those included in the letter.

"Fornication, sexual harassment and adultery are breaches of the ethical standards by which we operate," concluded the official.

But that is not enough to satisfy Smith.

"I am so angry ... I don't understand these people who call themselves Christians, and tell you every Saturday about judgement. If this is not judgement, I don't know what it is," she said, visibly upset and outraged.

Smith charged that the letter is wrong on Christian principles, and it is a slap to the face of individuals who have worked hard to secure rights for the Jamaican workers.

"They are disgusting. Is like they want to tell you when to have sex."

Our news team tried to get a response from the CEO of the hospital, Dr Marvin Rouhotas, but his administrative assistant, Eleanor Burke-Thomas, told us he was off the island and would return towards the end of the month.

Burke-Thomas said there was no other hospital official available to respond to the allegations.

"On that matter, the administration is not speaking to the media. All right," said Burke-Thomas, politely and professionally.

When questioned as to whether the hospital had a lawyer who could address the matter, Burke-Thomas said: "Well, I don't know if anybody else will address it but the decision that the administration took is that we are not gonna be speaking to media."

In the meantime, attorney-at-law Bert Samuels has expressed surprise at some of the 'infractions' which the hospital administrators have warned could lead to "severe disciplinary action or even dismissal".

"In my humble opinion, no court would allow fornication and adultery to be used as dismissible offences, given that there is common law to protect women who have lived in a union not married for five years.

"It is my considered view that a court would rule them oppressive," said attorney.

According to Samuels, it would be interesting for the hospital to say if women who are unmarried have used its maternity services.

The hospital's board is chaired by Everette Brown, who is president of Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

*Name changed