'Clear the air’ talks were last week held between Countess managers and Chester Childbirth Appeal representatives.
The meeting was described as ‘constructive’ although the Countess has since issued a statement indicating its in-house catering department will still take over the space occupied by the charity’s Comfort Zone cafe and shop.
This facility, based within the maternity wing, has helped raised £2m for improved patient facilities in the women and children’s department.
Among the amenities funded are an overnight suite for parents with poorly babies, the Snowdrop Room for bereaved parents and the Baby Memorial Garden.
Countess chief executive Tony Chambers had wanted the Comfort Zone gone by close of business on January 16. And the row ended up in the hands of solicitors with the hospital threatening to sue the charity if it did not leave by the stated deadline.
However, talks took place last week between the charity’s accountant Sandra Magilton and former patron Sue Proctor along with Mr Chambers, hospital solicitor Stephen Cross and Richard Baird, divisional director at the NHS.
Charity founder Patricia Daniels MBE couldn’t attend as she was being treated as a patient in the Countess but is now recovering at home.
Following the meeting, Mrs Proctor said in a statement: “As representatives of Chester Childbirth Appeal we were very grateful for the opportunity to clear the air and to be able to discuss finding a way forward in a positive manner.
“We want to continue to support the work of the hospital and are confident that in the same way, the hospital supports the charity.
“Our common purpose is to provide the best possible service to patients.
“We were reassured that if the trust took over the management of the cafe, the Comfort Zone staff would be transferred to the NHS, so their jobs are not at risk. However, we hope that, if we can continue to increase our profits in the way we have over recent months, we will be able to make available even more money to the hospital.
“If we can do this, they will be able to pay, for example, for more midwives and we will be able to continue.”
The charity’s trustees met on Monday evening although no decisions have been taken. It is hoped to come up with an agreed plan of action in partnership with the hospital, enshrined in a memorandum of understanding.
Mrs Proctor concluded: “For the time-being, we will progress this through the Chester Childbirth Appeal trustees and committee so that, for everyone concerned, we can end the uncertainty. I am confident that this can be achieved and this statement is being issued with the support of the hospital trust.”
Stephen Cross, director of corporate and legal services at the Countess, said in a statement: “We recently held a constructive meeting with representatives of the Chester Childbirth Appeal at which we reiterated our commitment that those staff employed by Chester Childbirth Appeal to work in the coffee shop (to whom TUPE applies) will be transferred, thus protecting their terms of employment.
“We believe that by combining the operational and business expertise of our catering team with the Chester Childbirth coffee shop team, we will be in an even better position to generate more funds to benefit mums and new born babies at The Countess.”