Fire-hit St Leonards hospice launches £1m rebuild appeal

Fire damage at St Michael's Hospice Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption The hospice was hit by fire last summer

A £1m appeal to rebuild a hospice which was hit by fire last year has begun.

Most of St Michael's Hospice in St Leonards has remained closed since the fire, which was treated by Sussex Police as arson.

After the fire, the inpatient unit was temporarily relocated to rented space at a nursing home in Hastings.

It is hoped the £1m will be raised by the end of the year following the appeal, which is backed by Hastings actor Mark Benton.

Image copyright St Michael's Hospice
Image caption Hospice chiefs said they wanted to bring their patients back to improved facilities

The hospice said the £1m was needed on top of the £10,000 required to run its services each day.

Rebuild plans include private ensuite bedrooms for patients, improved access and mobility equipment, refurbishment of the reception, conservatory and coffee shop, a new kitchen, and improved staff and volunteer facilities.

Chief executive Celia Pyke-Lees said the total rebuild cost would be £4m, but about £1m would come from insurers and £2m from the hospice's reserves.

She said: "People will know we had a fire last year and our inpatient services are now up at a different venue."

But she said the hospice wanted to bring its patients back to their own building and they hoped the hospice could "rise from the ashes" with the Phoenix Appeal.

Image copyright St Michael's Hospice
Image caption The rebuild and improvement scheme includes a new reception
Image copyright St Michael's Hospice
Image caption Private ensuite bedrooms will be on the ground and first floors

Three hospice patients - Pearl Spencer, Jill Moon and David Denness - died shortly after the incident in July 2015.

A hospice patient who was charged with starting the blaze, Rodney Smith, 67, of Quarry Hill, St Leonards, died in prison before he appeared in court. Sussex Police said he was the only suspect in their investigation.

Jenny Davies, a hospice volunteer whose husband was cared for there, said the fire had an enormous impact and was "absolutely devastating".

But she said: "Given time, we should get back to how we were before, probably even better."

Image caption Most of the building remained closed after the fire
Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption Twenty three patients had to be moved from the building after the fire

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