A natural therapy clinic at Whanganui Hospital offering massage and traditional Maori healing has been shelved after a doctor linked it to witchcraft and wizardry.
The clinic also offered Christian prayer and energy healing - including reiki and colour therapy - to staff for health and wellbeing.
The hospital agreed to offer the therapies as a three-month trial, but it was stopped early, on September 19, because of the doctor's comments.
"After we decided to have the pilot for staff, there was some negative publicity generated by a couple of our board members," chief executive Julie Patterson said. "I wasn't overly concerned about it.
"Some weeks later, one of the senior doctors made a comment publicly in the local newspaper - a positive comment, not a negative comment - about the trial, but linked it with witchcraft and wizardry."
That, Mrs Patterson said, was confusing for the public, and the clinic was closed.
She would not name the senior doctor and would not comment on whether action was being taken against him.
Members of the senior medical staff complained about the newspaper article, but there were no complaints "about any of our doctors being wizards", she said.
The trial was announced in July, and 15 therapists began providing services to staff in August. Seventy-five staff were treated over five weeks.
Therapists worked in pairs. There was to be no spinal manipulation, no use of needles and no prescription of ingested remedies, or rongoa (traditional Maori medicine).
A review of the service was to be held next month to see whether it could be made available to patients.
Whanganui District Health Board confirmed the closure of the natural therapy clinic at its meeting on Friday. General surgeon and health board member Clive Solomon said yesterday that the service was shut because a doctor who set it up was affiliated to the Whanganui School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
He believed a high-ranking doctor had complained about the senior doctor's involvement in wizardry.
"The outcome is correct as far as I'm concerned. The reasons, though, are really worrying."
Mr Solomon said he was "not anti these holistic treatments at all", but when a hospital "gives credibility to things like colour therapy, that becomes a problem".
- The Dominion Post
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