Sunday, 1 September 2013

Paul Burstow Vs The Nuns

Sutton and Cheam’s Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow has been accused of misrepresenting the situation regarding the Daugters of the Cross who own St Raphaels Hospice and St Anthony’s Hospital about their future.

In a leaked letter written by the Daughters they say that
“We are distressed that, despite explaining this situation to Mr Burstow, he has organised a local campaign to 'save the hospice', despite it not being in any danger. We are even more worried because the future he would like to see for the hospital actually confers greater risk for the future of the hospice.”

Mr Burstow has written to the Charity Commission, asking it to investigate the Daughters of the Cross, how their charity has conducted itself and accused them of a lack of due diligence and of risking financial and reputational damage. He has said in Parliament that
“It cannot be right for a charitable purpose to be subverted by the personal concerns of the trustees about their own long-term involvement in the charity.”
The MP has also asked for representations to be made to Pope Francis claiming that “only an intervention from the Vatican can hope to protect the future of the much loved and cherished St Raphael’s hospice.”

The Daughters of the Cross explained that:
“At the heart of [Mr Burstow’s] campaign, backed by some staff, is a plan to establish a new charity to run the hospital and hospice. We have given this option along with five other options full consideration but have decided to reject it following professional independent advice. To date, we have refrained from fully addressing in public the main reasons behind our decision to avoid undermining the leadership team of SAH and SRH, and also because the plan was, sadly, unworkable. 
Our fundamental reasons for rejecting the new charity were that:
  • The plan committed to borrowing a huge portion of the capital needed from the English Charity run by the Order-depriving it of funds to support our other works supporting vulnerable people. It also committed to paying the money back on an unrealistic timescale.
  • Because SRH would then be dependent on the success of SAH, this plan would put the Hospice at greater risk than a plan to make it a stand-alone charity.
  • Much of their planning was predicated on maintaining the unique ethos of the hospital through careful selection of trustees, even though we know from our own experience and that of other religious orders that you simply cannot guarantee this."
The Daughters of the Cross is a worldwide order of Catholic nuns that have dedicated themselves to serving God and helping the poor, the weak and the suffering since 1833. You can see their website here.

In their letter they have continued:
“Despite Mr Burstow's claims, we continue to support the Hospice as we plan for a future independent of the Daughters of the Cross. We have recently invested £76,000 towards their plans for a new orangery, and we ensure that the Hospice has an effective fundraising department. It is outrageous for Mr. Burstow to constantly imply we are placing the Hospice at risk. We used our land, built the Hospice, extended it, worked locally to develop the Palliative Care and Hospice at Home Services. This was all as a gift to the locality to mark their part in the life of the Hospital, prior to our Regional Health Board Funding being withdrawn, with no warning in the early 70's. We were undertaking very little private work in this era and this withdrawal of funds occurred just as we were building the current Hospital. Why would we want to destroy the Hospice when we worked so hard to create it and have subsidised it out of our Charity funds for the last 25 years? 
The one thing we cannot change significantly is that within our Province the sisters are getting older and fewer and so we are planning responsibly for the future. It has been a long and difficult process for us and, while we appreciate the local community's appreciation of St Anthony's and St Raphael's, and we are honoured that they feel that we have run them well, we have made our decision based not only on our religious principles, but the best interests of the whole Charity, whilst ensuring there is a future for the Hospital.”
Mr Burstow has set up a "Save St Raphael's" website which links directly to a Liberal Democrat petition site. Signing his petition and ticking the ‘Get Updates from us’ come with the little condition that: “Paul Burstow MP, the Liberal Democrats, and their elected representatives may use the information you provide to contact you about issues you may find of interest. Some of the contacts may be automated. You can opt out of these contacts at any time by contacting us.”

Mr Burstow met with the nuns initially but the blog understands he has since declined to meet with them again.

Paul Scully, Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Sutton and Cheam, has said it was important to make sure the hospice is there for generations to come and that we "can’t turn it into a political football." He added:
“I’m not sure complaining to the Charity Commission accusing elderly nuns of misconduct is a sensible way forward instead of working with the trustees and hospital staff to get a solution for hospital staff."
Mr Burstow said the campaign was broad-based reflecting the views of many of the staff and supporters of the hospice and added:
"So far they have failed to convince me and much more importantly the staff and management of the hospice and hospital that their plan will work."
The Daughters of the Cross have reiterated that:
“We are proud that our work at the hospital and the hospice is seen as vital to the community, and we want to reassure you that all our decisions around both works will enable them continue to provide these excellent services into the future.”