CHRISTIANS including Sir Cliff Richard are among the thousands of people campaigning to save the Mildmay Mission Hospital, in east London, from closure.
The hospital has been dedicated to supporting patients living with HIV since the 1980s. It costs £5 million a year to run, but, because it is a charity that provides NHS services and not an NHS trust, when this funding dries up it will be forced to close. Redundancy notices have already been issued to all staff members.
The board of governors has launched a campaign which calls on the Government to provide enough funding to keep the hospital open for another year while new sources of income are found. Its petition has accrued more than 7200 signatures.
Sir Cliff Richard said on Wednesday: “I’m stunned to hear that the wonderful Mildmay Hospital is scheduled for imminent closure. It has long been a beacon of love, inclusivity, and understanding, and there must be thousands whose lives have been turned about by its care, treatment, and ministry. I gladly add my name to those who campaign to enable the hospital a further lease of life.”
The chief executive of Mildmay, Geoff Coleman, said on Tuesday: “As well as being supported by many individual church groups, including our own St Leonard’s Church and the Tabernacle Church — both next to the hospital site — we are being supported by the Christian CEOs Group for London, and the group of churches that I belong to, Oxfordshire Community Churches.”
KOIS MIAHThe Archbishop of Canterbury blesses the new Mildmay Hospital building in 2014
He continued: “The more Christian groups that we can get supporting and praying for us the better, because, although we are having discussions about the clinical services that we provide, it is our faith base that anchors us.”
The interim chief executive of Church Army, Des Scott, said on Wednesday: “The Mildmay Mission Hospital does an amazing job caring, supporting, and offering specialist help to those suffering from HIV and AIDS. Its strength is not only in its medical care: its pastoral care is so important to people facing this life-changing illness. It would be a tragedy if Mildmay had to close, putting increased pressure on NHS services just because authorities could not agree on who should fund it.”
Mr Coleman agreed that hundreds of NHS patients would suffer should the hospital close, not least because HIV patients who are unable to be transferred to Mildmay would be taking up desperately needed bed-space in NHS hospitals.
When Mildmay Mission Hospital was founded in 1988, its beds were filled with young gay men preparing to die. Local barbers were afraid to cut the hair of staff working at the hospital, and ambulance drivers would turn up wearing protective suits. Bricks were thrown through its windows.
The hospital was reopened by Prince Harry in 2015, and blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury (News, 7 November 2014). The new building had 26 en-suite rooms and rehabilitation services for the 82 per cent of patients who were able to return home after their stay. Two wards were named William and Catherine, in a nod to visits to the hospital made in the 1980s by the late Diana, Princess of Wales, when she was filmed shaking hands with a patient.