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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 19:44 GMT
Hospice services to split
Tom Hill
Tom Hill expressed regret over resignation

Members of the Northern Ireland hospice have voted overwhelmingly to split the organisation into two charities.

Services for adults and children will be run separately following a decision backed by about 90% of members at the charity's annual general meeting on Thursday night.

The move is designed to restore confidence in the hospice following a long-running dispute over its chief executive Tom Hill, who resigned ahead of the meeting.

A government review published in July had recommended splitting the two sectors.

Mr Hill stepped aside from his post on full pay last year to allow the government review of the charity, after relations appeared to reach an all-time low.

In a statement on Thursday, Mr Hill said it was with deep regret that he found it was not possible for him to return.

I think we have got to move forward and recognise that the Hospice is bigger than individuals
Rosemary Calvert
Northern Ireland Hospice
He expressed his hopes that the hospice would learn lessons from the past and build a sustainable future.

In accepting his resignation, the charity's management council paid tribute to Mr Hill for the significant contribution he has made over many years.

Rosemary Calvert, one of the charity's founding members, said it had been a positive meeting.

"I think we have got to move forward and recognise that the hospice is bigger than individuals," she said.

"It's a sad day for Tom Hill, but it's possibly the wise thing for the hospice in its programme of care and work."

Northern Ireland Hospice chairperson Carol O'Malley said Mr Hill's resignation was his own decision.

"I think last night was a turning point," she said.

"To get a vote of almost 92% on the resolution to split the organisation into two charities was really the members telling us that they wanted to move forward."

Martin Bradley of the Royal College of Nursing said Mr Hill's resignation would not effect the high standard of care offered by the hospice.

"It provides a very high standard of care, primarily through professional staff and the volunteers who contribute their time to running the hospice," he said.

"There is no reason why under the right leadership, under the right management, that should not now continue."

Divisions

Staff and volunteers became deeply divided over Mr Hill's role in the charity.

When the Department of Health published an independent review in July it fell short of calling for Mr Hill's resignation but it failed to give him a vote of confidence.

Mr Hill stood firm to the disappointment of some members of the charity who wanted him to go.

The government's review questioned Mr Hill's ability to unite staff. He had been sacked, then re-employed by the hospice.

Last October, he said he was giving back some of the 80,000 damages he was paid for unfair dismissal before beginning a new role as chief executive.

His suspension, then sacking, as the charity's administrative director caused several years of turmoil within the organisation.

Health unions warned that staff at the hospice could find it impossible to continue working there unless uncertainty in the organisation was resolved.

Unison and the Royal College of Nursing said staff and volunteers were "divided and hurt" because of the row over Mr Hill.

They claimed that workers were placed under unacceptable pressure and morale was being affected.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Tara Mills reports:
"Those dependant on the hospice hope the charity will once again be known for the care it provides"



SEE ALSO:
Hospice discussions 'positive'
08 Oct 03  |  Northern Ireland
Hospice bosses welcome review
17 Jul 03  |  Northern Ireland
Questions over NI hospice review
09 Jan 03  |  Northern Ireland
Review ordered into hospice issues
28 Nov 02  |  Northern Ireland
Angry scenes at hospice AGM
28 Nov 02  |  Northern Ireland
Hospice chief to 'donate money'
21 Oct 02  |  Northern Ireland


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