CHASE FARM OCCUPATION ‘IMMINENT’ – says North East London Council of Action secretary

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Pickets out early at Chase Farm Hospital last Thursday
Pickets out early at Chase Farm Hospital last Thursday

Workers, patients and visitors at Chase Farm Hospital on Thursday made it clear they are determined to fight any attempt to close their hospital.

There was a lively picket of both gates at the Enfield site in the morning by the North-East London Council of Action, demonstrating to stop the hospital’s closure.

The picket took place in the wake of an announcement that there will be 250 redundancies at Barnet and Chase Farm and that the future of the A&E is being reviewed again, with threats to replace it with an Urgent Treatment Centre and to close the Maternity Department too.

The North-East London Council of Action Secretary Bill Rogers said: ‘The clinical review organised by a panel of 12, who have been politically appointed by the PCT, are pushing forward 250 sackings at Chase Farm and Barnet and the complete closure of the 24-hour A&E and Maternity.

‘We are getting great support and people are genuinely shocked because they thought the hospital was saved.

‘We want people to come to our special meeting on November 2nd at the Hollybush Pub in Enfield at 7.30pm because an occupation of the hospital is imminent.’

Maternity nurse Sue said: ‘As we were promised by the local Tory MP Nick de Bois that this hospital should be saved, he should stick to his decision.

‘The local people of Enfield want the hospital to stay here and he promised to accept the people’s decision, so he should stick to it.’

Fellow maternity nurse Maria Suarez added: ‘It is hearsay on whether the ante-natal will close and we have not been informed about any changes.

‘The ante-natal we think is safe but the labour ward we expect them to close.

‘I will fight to the end to keep my hospital open. It is my local hospital, it is my living and my work and my life.’

Ravinder, a healthcare assistant in Hartford ward, maternity post-natal unit, said: ‘I think it’s ridiculous closing us down.

‘It is too packed and too busy. How can it close?

‘It is playing with people’s lives.

‘Women who live nearby who are in labour can safely deliver here.

‘How can they travel to Barnet? It is a very bad decision to close it. It’s ridiculous.’

She added: ‘The government cuts will mean innocent people will suffer and maybe lose their lives.’

A group of ex-Visteon workers also supported the picket, as they regularly do.

Mario Bonafante said: ‘We have to keep the hospital open. It is our local hospital.

‘If needs be, it must be occupied like we occupied our factory.

‘The nurses and doctors should lead the occupation or they will be out of a job soon.’

Dom Barone, another ex-Visteon worker, said: ‘I’ve come here to support the workers and to prevent the cuts.

‘We want to stop the closure of Chase Farm.

‘We need this hospital here.

‘We can’t have it further away.

‘A lot of people haven’t got cars and can’t get to Barnet or North Middlesex.’

Consultant surgeon Anna Athow said: ‘The latest plans are to go ahead with the closure of the A&E, paediatrics and maternity by the end of the year.

‘Three quarters of the staff will lose their jobs and an acute general hospital will be lost.

‘We are calling on staff and unions to occupy the hospital and give a lead to other acute hospitals all over London that are under threat.

‘This includes King George’s in Ilford, Queen Mary’s Sidcup, Ealing and Whittington.

‘The Darzi Plan is back with a vengeance and the unions must mobilise to defend the NHS.’

Angie Marino, a nursery school teacher, said: ‘We have nowhere else if they close our A&E and Maternity.

‘The government spends money on stupid things like bonuses for themselves and their banker friends.

‘They should spend it on the NHS.

‘People would have to travel miles.

‘It is a life and death issue if you can’t get to an A&E in time to save your life if it’s too far away.

‘They’re taking out of ordinary people’s pockets to pay for their crisis and they’re not taking out of their own pockets.’

George Andreas, a patient at Chase Farm, said: ‘I want to see the A&E open because it is the nearest to the community here.

‘I use it all the time and the hospital’s been very good to me.’

Darren Stead, who was going into the hospital because he injured his back at work, said: ‘I think it’s disgraceful. A lot of people are old or have kids or are single parents.

‘They can’t be traipsing everywhere when there is a hospital on their doorstep.

‘People should sit in and occupy it to stop it closing.

‘I have got three kids all born at Chase Farm.

‘Where are they going to go in an emergency?

‘The A&E is packed every day.

‘They can’t go to Barnet, it’s too far away.’

John O’Brien said: ‘We live locally.

‘If this A&E closes, our nearest one will be Harlow.

‘We live in Cheshunt and there is no transport from Cheshunt to Barnet.’

Maureen Giles, who has been regularly attending the monthly pickets by the Council of Action, said:

‘We have been fighting against the closure of the A&E for the past three and a half years.

‘I’m continuing to attend the monthly pickets and I will support an occupation of the hospital to prevent its closure.’

Peter Dent, a worker at the hospital, said: ‘I’m against these mass sackings of hospital workers.

‘With a big city like London we can’t have Third World services.’