Hospice boss leaves on high note

22:30, Oct 01 2012
Gerald Hope
Legacy: Gerald Hope at Marlborough Hospice yesterday. He has been chairman for nine years and leaves after a period of stability for the palliative care institution.

Hope is gone but hope remains for the Marlborough Hospice Trust in Blenheim after its chairman has stepped down.

Outgoing chairman Gerald Hope said the time was right to leave on Thursday last after nine years in charge.

Mr Hope said he was leaving the hospice in very capable hands.

His second-in-command, Ann Rutledge, has taken over the reins.

"It gives me great satisfaction that I have left at the right time."

He would have stepped down a couple of years ago, but deferred his resignation until the hospice was stable following resignations and changes to the service, he said.

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The former Marlborough mayor was first attracted to the job because it was a challenge.

The trust needed $1 million to build the purpose-built hospice at the grounds of Wairau Hospital in 2003.

"They had raised sufficient capital to complete the building but left nothing for the operational costs," Mr Hope said. "The rule of thumb is you need enough working capital to be viable for the first year. The challenge for me and my fellow trustees was to raise sufficient community funds to ensure the palliative care service survived."

Loans from the Blenheim Trust and the Salvation Army helped achieve this, he said.

"I'm delighted we achieved that goal."

The Blenheim Trust granted a $500,000 interest-free loan and the hospice paid off its debts within three years, Mr Hope said.

"We had some really vibrant and active trustees committed to making the hospice succeed."

The workings of Hospice Marlborough were unique in New Zealand, Mr Hope said.

The building was owned by Marlborough Hospice Trust but the Salvation Army provided the palliative care services, he said.

That strong relationship was the most heart-warming aspect of Hospice Marlborough, he said.

"Most hospices are run by a board with an appointed chief executive with staff that report to the board," he said. "Our model gives us the independence to raise funds without the distraction of the day-to-day running of the hospice."

A $600,000 extension to the hospice in 2009 was incredibly satisfying for the former chairman.

"I'm pleased that in my time we have been able to extend the hospice from four to six beds with the potential for a further two beds. And we didn't have to go back to the wider community for additional funds."

A dedicated family room and sanctuary were also added, Mr Hope said. "It's a friendly, happy place," he said. "It's as good as you get at home, if not better for some people."

The Hospice Marlborough asset was today worth around $3 million, he said.

Mr Hope planned to focus on his role as chief executive of the Marlborough Research Centre building relationships with an American research company that would benefit both Marlborough and New Zealand.

Asked about speculation that he might stand as a National Party candidate for the 2014 election, Mr Hope said he had no plans to.

The Marlborough Express