HUNDREDS of supporters have backed a petition to save the chaplain at Bognor Regis War Memorial Hospital.
The total of backers of the call stood at 672 yesterday – just four days after the petition was started.
It was begun by Stephen Sampson, the treasurer of the Bognor Regis Friends of the Hospitals, after the hospital’s chaplain, the Rev Graham Reeves, was given six months’ notice to leave his role, as reported last week.
Mr Sampson states on the petition: “The Friends strongly believe that the paid chaplain at Bognor hospital must be saved.
“We ask Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust to overturn their decision and commit to keeping the Rev Reeves as permanent paid chaplain at the hospital.
“Graham is very well known at the hospital as someone that everyone can turn to: staff, patients, and their relatives, of any religion and no religion at all.
“Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust have given Graham notice to terminate the contract from May 6, 2019.
“The trust did not consult any patients, relatives, hospital staff, members of the public, or even Graham himself.
“In fact, the trust has no idea what Graham does and did not bother to ask him before deciding to get rid of him.”
Mr Reeves has filled the role at the Shripney Road hospital for 21 years and is contracted for 1.5 days a week.
“After May 6, 2019, there will be no paid chaplain at Bognor Hospital. Instead, the trust hope that a new chaplain manager in Brighton can find unpaid volunteers to make up for the loss of Graham.
“The chaplain manager will be paid for by cutting all the paid chaplains across the whole trust.
“No money will be saved overall, as the chaplain manager is expected to cost more than all the paid chaplains put together,” said Mr Sampson.
This could mean patients being left without a familiar face towards the end of their lives and relatives being without a trained, experienced and friendly ear to turn to when a loved one is ill or dying.
The petition is online at change.org. Those who have backed it include Sally Manning. She wrote: “People get very distressed in hospital and it is vital that there is someone who is trusted with whom you can seek comfort and is fully trained to provide such support.”
Susan Butler stated: “It is important that patients and relatives have the support of the chaplain. It is a disgrace to even contemplate doing this.”
Mr Sampson said a paper petition is available at the hospital’s renal unit. But his attempt to put copies elsewhere in the hospital saw them taken away.
The trust said it was modernising its chaplaincy service next April. The aim was to provide a trust-run service to provide a more consistent and comprehensive approach and replace the current provision which differed between hospitals.