THE death of 2-year-old Muhammad Hashir Maveed last Wednesday is a tragic warning of the cost to human life that must inevitably result from the savage cuts inflicted by the coalition government on the NHS.
At 3am in the morning the little boy’s mother, on discovering he had a dangerously high temperature, rushed him to the nearest A&E department at Chase Farm hospital in Enfield, north London.
On arriving she found not a functioning emergency unit staffed by doctors and equipped with modern medical equipment that could have saved her child’s life but instead a locked door and an emergency telephone.
The A&E unit at Chase Farm was closed on the 9th December and replaced with a so-called Emergency Care Centre which is open only for 12 hours a day from 9am to 9pm.
This Centre, despite its designation as providing ‘urgent care’ is not equipped to deal with any real life-threatening emergency.
What was a heavily used A&E department in a hospital that serves a huge population in this area of London was just closed down with the entirely predictable result that lives would be lost as a result.
When A&E departments are replaced with locked doors and telephones it is a terrible lesson about the human cost of the government’s drive to save money in order to pay off the national debt, caused by the banking collapse, really means for ordinary people.
The Labour Party and trade union leadership will undoubtedly be quick to heap abuse on the ‘uncaring’ Tories and LibDem coalition who are ruthlessly pursuing the policy of closing down not just A&E departments but whole hospitals and privatising the NHS out of existence.
In this way they seek to divert attention from their own responsibility for keeping this government in power.
It is a matter of fact that at every turn the leadership of the health unions and the TUC have refused to lift a finger to defend the NHS – the most important gain made by the working class in its history.
Over the closure of the A&E and maternity department at Chase Farm the leaders of Unison, Unite and the GMB did absolutely nothing to defend either their members or the hospital.
It was left to the North East London Council of Action, set up by local trade unions and residents, to fight a campaign for over seven years to stop the closure – a campaign that involved a non-stop daily picket of over 480 days along with numerous demonstrations called around the demand that the hospital be occupied to prevent its destruction.
Throughout this campaign the trade union leaders were not just absent but resolutely hostile to any real fight to save the A&E department because such a fight would inevitably bring them into conflict with the government, something they are determined to avoid at all costs even at the cost of allowing hospitals to close without even a murmur.
Instead their response to every cut has been to limit the trade unions to the role of mounting protest marches begging the government to change its mind.
These leaders, who sit back and oppose using the strength of the trade unions to stop the destruction of the NHS, are as culpable as the government.
The time is long overdue to deal with this treacherous leadership by booting them out of their cosy positions and replacing them with a new leadership that is prepared to fight – a leadership that will take up the demands of the NE London Council of Action and organise trade union occupations of every hospital department anywhere in the country threatened with closure.
Such defensive actions must be accompanied by a decisive offensive to put an end to this bankrupt capitalist system, that today has decided that it cannot afford hospitals, by calling a general strike to bring down this government and replace it with a workers government and socialism.