FOUR Greater Manchester hospitals are to have their maternity units closed in drastic cuts after the Labour government’s health secretary, ex-postman, Alan Johnson frantically launched the government’s programme to close 60 District General Hospitals nationally.
Rochdale Infirmary is one of the hospitals set to close its unit. The others are at Salford, Trafford and Bury. As well emergency surgery is to be halted at Fairfield Hospital, while Bury A&E and Rochdale’s A&E units are to be closed.
Public consultations on the shut down of these services provoked an unprecedented response, with thousands of people rejecting the cuts and closures plan.
Even Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears joined a demonstration calling for maternity care to continue at Hope Hospital in her Salford constituency, despite supporting the national policy of maternity changes – out of fear of losing her seat at the next General Election.
The vicious cuts and closures are taking place in a situation where the attendances at A&Es are continuing to rise and where the number of live births has increased.
The attacks on the Manchester NHS are part of a national plan to shut down 60 District General Hospitals and replace them with poly-clinics and with regional hospitals which will have a catchment area of up to 1.5 million people. lt has also emerged that while maternity units and A&Es are being closed in Manchester to save £80 million, an even bigger sum has been paid out in huge redundancy payments to allow the government to reduce the 28 strategic health authorities (SHAs) in England to 10.
More than 700 managers lost their jobs in the shut down of the SHAs which were set up in 2002 to supervise local health services in England. Their job was to coordinate care and deliver government policy. But just four years later ministers decreed the 28 be merged into 10.
Some 764 people were made redundant or took early retirement at a cost of £82.89m. That included 61 senior managers. Their redundancy packages cost an average of £358,355. One chief executive’s early retirement deal cost his SHA £900,000.
Meanwhile, Lib Dem MP Paul Rowen said yesterday that Rochdale would now effectively have a ‘cottage hospital’, continuing ‘I am devastated for the people for Rochdale who have fought so hard against this. We have done everything possible to save these services and I am furious that we have been ignored,’ Rowen added.
It is just at this point where all of the protesters are saying that ‘we have done everything possible’ that the real struggle has to begin.
Shutting down maternity and A&E units will cost lives just as surely as the cuts in the fire service cost people’s lives in the recent Newquay hotel blaze.
This struggle, to stop Labour’s hospital closure programme, must see local trade unions and local community organisations, from pensioners to youth joining together to form Councils of Action to occupy the hospitals and keep the A&E and Maternity Units open.
The Councils of Action must take the lead in organising occupations, strikes and demonstrations to defend the NHS, and campaign for national strike action to defeat the plans of the Brown government.
Defeating the government means organising for a general strike to bring down the Brown government to go forward to a workers government that will carry out socialist policies.
These policies include nationalising the drugs companies and the banks to finance the NHS, and clearing the private medical industry out of the NHS.