Conference Votes For Chase Farm Occupation!

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Members of the audience applauding a speaker at the conference, which voted for an occupation
Members of the audience applauding a speaker at the conference, which voted for an occupation

A NORTH East London Council of Action conference of over 150 workers, pensioners and youth on Saturday voted unanimously for an occupation of Chase Farm Hospital, to stop the hospital from being closed.

The resolution passed by the conference called for ‘a mass demonstration through Enfield on Saturday December 10th to show once again the determination of the people to maintain their hospital.

‘This demonstration will be a preliminary to a full occupation of the hospital to keep it open.’

The resolution said that ‘workers, pensioners and young people are absolutely determined that their District General Hospital at Chase Farm must not be allowed to close.’

It added: ‘They are doubly incensed that Tory leader Cameron made an opportunist pledge that he would not carry forward Labour’s policy to close the hospital, and then immediately reneged on it.’

Moving the resolution, Bill Rogers, secretary of the North East London Council of Action, said: ‘It’s absolutely necessary to defend the hospital.

‘Anything short of what we’re proposing would allow the hospital to shut down.’

He said that last month, when Tory Health Secretary Lansley decided to approve the closure of Chase Farm, ‘we went to the TUC and lots of delegates and trade union leaders said they would support an occupation.

‘Paul Kenny, the general secretary of the GMB, said the GMB would back an occupation and that we should be building hospitals and homes, not closing them down.

‘Delegate after delegate said we were correct.

‘Even the Unite leader Len McCluskey said: if workers support an occupation, I’ll support it.’

Rogers also read out a message of support from Labour MP John McDonnell to the conference.

He said the plan to shut Chase Farm ‘comes from the “Darzi plan’’ to shut down two thirds of hospitals in London.

‘That plan is still with us, it hasn’t gone away and Chase Farm is a test case for the whole of London and the rest of the country.’

He continued: ‘Everyone has stories to tell of how the hospital has saved them – so we know it’s absolutely vital.

‘We spoke to doctors at Chase Farm and they are proud of what they have there.’

He said top teams of medical staff ‘that take years and decades to put together’ will be dispersed if the Accident and Emergency, Maternity and Children’s departments at Chase Farm are allowed to close.

He also condemned the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) as ‘nothing but a form of robbery’ and the £20 billion ‘savings’ being taken from the NHS ‘and put into the coffers of the private sector’.

Rogers concluded: ‘It’s an issue of leadership and how we’re going to fight to save Chase Farm Hospital and all these other hospitals.

‘We’re going to call for trade union leaders who support our policy to turn their words into actions and make it official trade union policy to defend the NHS and support any occupation or action to defend the NHS.’

Anna Athow, BMA Council member speaking in a personal capacity, said: ‘Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health, decided Chase Farm Hospital should be closed shortly after the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill through its third reading in parliament.

‘He has “directed’’ NHS bosses to transfer Chase Farm Hospital to North Middlesex Hospital Trust through a merger.’

She continued: ‘The purpose of the Bill is to end the NHS as a publicly provided service and bring in American-style health care, with a minimum service for the poor and elderly or no care at all.’

She said the Bill ‘will destroy our NHS structures, our District General Hospitals and our GP surgeries, and the admin structures, the Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs).’

At the same time, she added, the Bill will create the structures ‘to drive in the open market with choice and competition under EU competition law’.

She said: ‘To destroy the NHS that we have had for 63 years and bring in a marketised system is a massive job.’

She warned that the whole of London will be left with only ‘10 acute major hospitals’ unless these closures were stopped.

And she warned that GPs would lose their independent contractor status and their patient advocate role.

She said: ‘GPs don’t want this’ and are demanding the Health Bill’s withdrawal.

‘The same is true of the other health unions, members of RCN, Unite, Unison and the GMB – they don’t want our NHS privatised or strangled with cuts.’

She concluded: ‘The time has come to stand up for the NHS and preserve all the NHS services that we have, all our District General Hospitals and GP surgeries.

‘The purpose of an occupation of a hospital is to keep it working and caring for patients.’

Dr Nicholas Pillay, a GP, said: ‘I am very disappointed and I feel it will affect the patient care in our area.

‘It could be you who will suffer, it could be your children.

‘Plans have been drawn up and we have been aware of all these closures for years.’

He warned that the land could be sold off to private developers and the services provided lost.

‘They made promises Chase Farm would stay open. Now they are saying it has to close.

‘They are doing this so they can implement this Health Bill.

‘It’s not going to help you or me.’

William Westwell, a member of Camden Unison, said: ‘I am very pleased to bring my branch banner to this conference today and greetings from Camden Unison.’

He said he would take the conference resolution to the next branch committee meeting and organise a delegation to attend the next march in December.

Mario Bonafante, from the sacked Visteon workers in Enfield who occupied their factory, said: ‘The occupation requires help, I believe, from within, from the workers themselves. It’s a fight.

‘They threw us out, told us to pack our bags.

‘We weren’t going to have that, so we went on the roof of the factory.

‘You need support from the local people and from the inside.

‘We have to fight and try to stop them from smashing us.

‘Chase Farm is a very important place to me. The fight goes on. Spread the word around.’

Local resident Madge Jones said: ‘I’m concerned about the fact that it is difficult for me to get to Barnet or North Middlesex.

‘Can’t you take these people to court – Cameron and Nick De Bois – who promised the people of Enfield they’d save the hospital.

‘They won the election in north London on a promise to save the hospital.

‘Isn’t there any way to take them to court for lying to the public.’

Barry Cross, secretary of the Welwyn Keep the NHS Public Campaign, said: ‘It affects the whole of Hertfordshire.’

He told the conference that under the last Labour government a plan was brought forward that said all Hertfordshire needed was two District General Hospitals, which meant closing two of the four existing hospitals in the county.

Now the plans are in motion to try and close the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, with blue light ambulance services to stop in December, an Accident and Emergency Department only open from 8.00am to 8.00pm from this month and the Maternity unit threatened with closure next month.

‘We’re here to show solidarity,’ he said.

‘We realise how important all these things are.’

He said that petitions with tens of thousands of signatures opposing the closure of the QEII Hospital ‘are just ignored’.

He said: ‘I fully support this motion and all power to the people in Chase Farm. We’ll support you every step of the way and we know you’ll be there for us at the same time.’

Rachel Emerson, chair of Unison at Ealing Hospital in west London, said: ‘Our hospital also has an uncertain future.

‘We don’t know what’s going to happen to us. We’ve got a lot of local support.

‘Part of our Accident and Emergency has been privatised.

‘I’m just tired of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government.’

She warned that closing hospitals and forcing patients to travel even further for treatment would have a serious effect on patient care.

She said the new financial regime was creating a culture of ‘setting one hospital against another’.

‘We have to band together,’ she urged.

‘Patients are being put back into the “community’’ when they really need hospital care.

‘We offer our solidarity and it’s in our interests to support you, so good luck.’

UCU member Chris Anglin brought greetings from his union branch at Tottenham College.

‘My college has seen huge government cuts to ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

‘My college decided to sack 74 full-time and nearly 100 part-time lecturers.

‘But our protests came to nothing and they proceeded with these cuts.

‘And abolition of EMA means students can’t pay their fares to college or for their lunch at college.

‘We’re faced with more cuts this year.

‘That’s why my branch decided to send a delegation here.

‘This collapse of European currencies and the massive banking crisis is going to drive this government to redouble the cuts and that’s why I support this motion calling for an occupation of Chase Farm and a campaign to maintain the services at Chase Farm, the services we provide in the colleges and for a general strike for a workers government and socialism.

‘Cancel these debts to the private banks and fund the public sector.’

Sapphire Huggins, from the Young Socialists, said: ‘All the cuts are affecting us, housing, schooling, hospitals.

‘I’m doing A-levels but by the time I get the chance to go to university there’s not going to be any courses!

‘If they take away national health care, you’re going to have turmoil.

‘Take away the jobs from people, what are they going to do?

‘What are they going to do with if they have no food, no health care, no housing?

‘Take away education, then young people are going to have nothing.

‘What if in 10 years’ time there is not even a school or a building to live in?

‘We have to stand together and fight with knowledge.

‘I can see nothing but a war zone.

‘The people in power, they are liars and bullies.

‘If they take away this hospital, then people will die for no reason.’

Peggy Idem said: ‘I work for the North Middlesex Hospital in a very, very busy environment.

‘The pain of hearing that Chase Farm is going to close essential services when North Middlesex is already struggling with the capacity we have is very, very sad.

‘We are faced with lots of difficulties, from the top management down we are suffering.

‘I’m here to support the motion. I’m ready to occupy any time.’

But she warned that the closure would not be carried out ‘with a padlock’.

‘My fear is we might go and occupy and no patients will go there,’ she said.

‘What do we do? North Middlesex has shut down two main wards. These two wards are always filled up capacity.

‘If Chase Farm closes down, what happens to the staff, what happens to the patients?’

She also warned of pressure to get patients out of hospital to ‘free up’ beds and asked: ‘How many cases are we going to have like this?’

Frank Sweeney, from the Workers Revolutionary Party, said: ‘I support this resolution and congratulate the people of Enfield who have stopped this hospital being closed.’

He added: ‘When there’s an occupation of Chase Farm Hospital, it won’t just be Chase Farm, because up and down the country there are hospitals where they’re threatening to close Accident and Emergency Departments, Maternity Units and Children’s Departments.’

Sweeney continued: ‘Back this resolution and support the occupation and participate in it.

‘We’ve protested, we’ve appealed, now we have to stop them closing the hospital.’

Rosetta Reeves said: ‘I very much agree with this resolution to occupy the hospital.

‘The people of the community rely on the hospital, they want it and the services it provides to remain open, with all the departments fully functioning, the A&E, the Maternity.’

She continued: ‘In the Winter of Discontent, the government was brought to its knees and they were brought down.

‘We want to occupy, stand up to this government and bring them down,’ she concluded to loud applause.

Madge Jones said: ‘I agree with all the last lady said, but what can we do?

‘We’ve got three lots of people in government, Labour, Conservative and LibDems, but I don’t trust any of them to do anything decent for the people.’

Everyone was urged to join the next picket on Tuesday October 18 to stop the closure.