‘People power’ celebrated as ward beds are saved, but now more cash must be found
THE battle to save beds at Canterbury’s hospice has been won but the mission to raise money for the Pilgrims charity continues. That was the message from campaigners after the charity announced the decision not to go ahead with a planned bed closure at the Canterbury inpatient ward. City councillors, current and former members of staff and volunteers, and residents who have had friends and family at the site, had mounted opposition to an announcement last month that all 16 beds would be axed in 2016.
Up in arms
Executives at the hospice had said the closure was “necessary” to maintain a charity operating at a £1 million annual deficit and would mean it could focus on work in the community and in people’s homes. But last Friday the board of trustees announced that beds would remain open at all three hospice sites in east Kent. Dr Richard Morey, chairman of the board, said they had listened and recognised the desire for what he called a “change of emphasis in our plans.” He said:
“Over the summer months, the hospice will keep you updated about its plans and how people can help. Please give us the time, patience and understanding that we now need to establish how we can achieve our common aim of maintaining beds in Canterbury as well as in Thanet and Ashford. We need your support now more than ever.”
Members of the Canterbury Volunteer Group, which repres ents many of the volunteers at the hospice, said they were “cautiously optimistic” about the future. One, Keren Tattersall, said:
“It is wonderful that people power has succeeded a combination of the online petition, Facebook page, individuals writing to the trustees, volunteer action and a packed public meeting where health professionals offered valuable contributions. Obviously, this is a great step in the right direction, but this work isn’t finished yet. We will now seek an early meeting with trustee representatives so that we may understand the revised plans.”
Mrs Tattersail said her group would also be pushing for a member on the board of trustees. She added:
“This whole experience has just highlighted how separate the board is from the rest of us.”
The board of trustees came under fire during a public meeting earlier this month; when crowds of people stormed out in protest at the plans. Throughout the process, senior staff including chief executive Steve Auty have said that closing the inpatient ward to focus more on homecare would be better for those who need care, and save the hospice money. Joe Connor, another member of the Canterbury Volunteer Group, said now is the time for the people of east Kent to make good on that promise.
“We have all said it, but now it has to be done. This is good news, but it’s only a reprieve, unless we can raise the extra £1 million or so a year, on top of what we already do.”
It was a message echoed by Dea Martindale, a volunteer who has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the hospice. Despite opposing the hospice’s plans, she hasn’t stopped her fundraising efforts for the people and staff of the ward. She said:
“We want to ask everybody to raise as much money as they can, to keep the nurses and ward going. I run a boot sale every weekend and I’ve seen a huge reduction in turnout over the last month. An extra £1 million is a huge amount of money, so please give whatever you can.”
Vicki Radford, whose husband received treatment at the hospice, co-created the Save Pilgrims’ Hospice Facebook page, which has almost 14,000 “likes” to date. She said it is time for volunteers, residents and trustees to be “on the same team”, but added she would not be taking the Facebook page down just yet.
Herne Bay Times, June 18th 2014