Hospitals allow private praying but no evangelising
Thu, Jun 12, 2008
my paper

NO EVANGELISING but private prayer sessions are okay.

Six public and private hospitals my paper spoke to say that the rule is to ensure respect for patients of all races and religion.

Hospitals take this sensitive issue seriously, such as the National University Hospital (NUH), whose spokesman said that if such activities are reported and "in the event that the individual or group refuses to stop, and where our patient's comfort and interest are affected, we will ask for security assistance as a last resort".

Recently, my paper reader Natasha Shah, 21, encountered such evangelical activities when she visited her sister in hospital.

Her sister Nadia was warded at the local public hospital for a throat infection.

The incident occurred during the gazetted visitation hours - 5pm to 8pm - when visitors were streaming into the six-bedded ward.

Ms Shah, who is awaiting entry to an Australian university, said that the group, comprising more than seven adults, had arrived at the hospital ward just before 5pm to visit a patient.

The patient, who looked to be in her 90s, was warded in the bed diagonally opposite Ms Shah's sister.

The group conducted a prayer session for the elderly woman.

It lasted more than 40 minutes, Ms Shah said.

Then, she added, "a lady from the group, who looked to be in her mid-40s, started going to the other beds and distributed religious pamphlets that contained scriptures".

She added that the woman approached her and attempted to "make conversation".

But after "sensing" Ms Shah's disinterest, she left.

However, according to Nadia, 19, the woman approached her after Ms Shah had left.

The woman then introduced herself as belonging to a Presbytarian church and wanted to distribute the pamphlet to her.

But Nadia, who is Muslim, declined politely.

Ms Shah said that there had been more than 12 visitors at that time.

Ms Shah also felt that the prayer session the group held was "loud".

She explained: "That is a hospital, patients need to rest."

When contacted, a spokesman from the hospital said: "As a public hospital, we do not condone evangelism on our premises out of respect for our patients."

"Patients who are approached by evangelical groups are advised to alert our staff."

That was also the view of the five other private and public hospitals my paper spoke with.

However, at least two hospitals - Changi General Hospital and NUH - also said patients are allowed to have private prayer sessions, where their visitors may pray for their recovery. --myp


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