THE Independent Reconfiguration Panel, set up to cut and close the NHS, has once again recommended to Health Secretary Lansley that the closure of Chase Farm’s 24-hour Accident and Emergency department, Emergency Paediatrics and its consultant-led 24-hour maternity departments goes ahead, and that it ceases being a District General Hospital.
This must be the basis of a call to arms, and for every trade unionist, local resident, youth, pensioner, and health worker to rise up and take every necessary action to stop the closure.
The chips are now down and a new stage of the battle has begun. This stage entails the hospital staff organised in their trade unions, along with the North East London Council of Action, organising the workers and youth of Enfield to occupy the hospital departments threatened with closure, to ensure that they continue to carry out their vital services to the community.
The unions must organise their ambulance service members to continue taking patients to the Chase Farm A&E, Paediatric and maternity units as required, and to refuse instructions diverting them to other sites.
Likewise, all the necessary supplies must continue to be delivered to Chase Farm.
The GPs locally must take a decision to continue referring their patients to Chase Farm hospital and to refuse to accept that Chase Farm DGH is closing.
There is not the slightest doubt that such decisive actions and decisions will be supported by the entire community.
The North East London Council of action was established through the ASLEF Chingford branch railway workers’ union to defend Chase Farm at all costs.
It is now in its fourth year of struggle and its support in the local community has swelled immeasurably.
The North East London Council of Action has not only earned support through the organisation of mass marches through Enfield town and the organisation of monthly lively pickets of the hospital, it has shown an unwavering determination to lead the struggle to occupy the hospital and stop the closure.
Enfield covers a massive area of north London and without Chase Farm’s 24-hour A&E, Paediatric and Maternity units patients will be forced to travel many miles in an ambulance to the nearest hospital.
The extra distance could well be the difference between life and death, and see emergency patients arriving DOA (Dead on Arrival) when they finally reach either Barnet or North Middlesex hospitals.
Other hospitals in the surrounding area are also in the middle of a battle to keep their essential services. The QE2 (Queen Elizabeth 2nd) hospital situated in Welwyn Garden City is also threatened with being shut. This would turn the area, whose industries have already been shut, into a desert.
The North East London council of Action must continue to give the lead.
It must speedily call a conference for trade unionists, including local health workers, and the local community and youth, to carry out the preparations for an occupation to halt the closure.
The struggle to defend Chase Farm, the QE2 or any other hospital threatened with cuts and closures, is part of a national struggle to defend the NHS. What has begun in Enfield, with the building of a Council of Action to halt the closure, must be spread throughout the entire London area and throughout the country.
Councils of Action must be built everywhere to lead the defence of the NHS with occupations to halt cuts and closures.
The end product of such actions must be a general strike to bring down the coalition and bring in a workers’ government that will defend and develop the NHS as the jewel in the crown of a socialist planned economy.