More than 7,000 people have signed a petition asking the Vatican to stop a group of nuns separating St Raphael’s Hospice and its neighbouring hospital, St Anthony’s.
On Wednesday evening Paul Burstow, the MP for Sutton and Cheam, presented his petition to Parliament to stop the Daughters of the Cross selling St Anthony’s Hospital, in North Cheam, and to create a new Catholic charity which could continue to include both the hospital and hospice.
Paul Burstow, MP for Sutton and Cheam, with fundraisers
Mr Burstow and other campaigners are concerned about the uncertainty the sale of St Anthony’s will cause for the hospice as it provides about £1m worth of services for free and it is unclear if it is taken over by a private organisation it will provide the same assistance.
The trustees of St Raphael’s have started pressing ahead with the separation of both services by advertising multiple jobs on their website. This includes a new chief executive at £90,000 a year because currently the post is shared between the hospice and hospital.
It is understood the Daughters of the cross intend to decide a buyer for St Anthony’s Hospital next month and will then have get approval from the Vatican before any plans can go ahead.
Next Monday Dr Ron McKeran, the chair of St Raphael’s Hospice advisory committee, will also present the petition to Archbishop Mennini who is the pope’s representative in Britain.
Mr Burstow said: "There is huge respect in the local community for the work of the Daughters of the Cross, particularly the hospice at North Cheam.
"But people are puzzled and concerned that the Daughters as trustees of a charitable trust are jeopardising their legacy and the future of the hospice by cutting the link with the hospital."
Sister Veronica Hagen, Trustee and Provincial Superior, Daughters of the Cross said: "The Trustees of the Daughters of the Cross have been running St Anthony’s Hospital since 1904 and St Raphael’s Hospice since 1987 and we are very proud of our work in and around Cheam.
"We have repeatedly explained that all our decisions – based on independent expert advice - will provide the best long term future for both Works, which is why we are so disappointed that Mr Burstow continues to pursue this matter.’"