MARCH AND OCCUPY TO SAVE CHASE FARM – say workers and patients

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North East London Council of Action pickets outside Chase Farm Hospital at 7.00am
North East London Council of Action pickets outside Chase Farm Hospital at 7.00am

workers, trade unionists and local people are marching through Enfield on Saturday 26th July against the closure of Chase Farm Hospital, the announcement of which is expected on Thursday 31st July.

Workers and patients supporting Tuesday’s monthly mass picket of the hospital said they would occupy to keep it open.

North East London Council of Action Secretary Bill Rogers said: ‘The so-called Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) say they’re going to decide by 31st July, but they’re really just a government rubber-stamp to cut and close hospitals and departments throughout the country.

‘Things are getting really tense as people realise that things have come to a head. What we need now is for the trade unions to take a fighting stand on the question of defending the NHS and to that end I would urge people to come to the ATUA Conference in London on 29th June, where we will be discussing all these issues and building a leadership in the unions that is going to fight.

‘I’m a railway worker, Chairman of Chingford Aslef Branch and Secretary of North East London Council of Action. We hold monthly pickets of Chase Farm Hospital and lively meetings where we discuss the issues and the fight to defend Chase Farm. We organised a 3,000-strong march through Enfield last November and we are holding another on 26th July, five days before the IRP announces its cuts and closure decision.

‘Our next meeting is on 10th June at the Hollybush pub in Lavender Hill and we call on all locals and trade unionists to come to make plans. We will defend Chase Farm by all means necessary, including occupation.’

Sue Fitzgerald, midwife and RCM member, said: ‘I’ve come to all the pickets and I’ve been on all the marches. We must keep our Obstetrics unit, because Barnet and North Mid couldn’t cope. Anyway, we need it here.’

Maudlyn Philips, a patient, said: ‘This hospital’s been good to me. They’ve already closed too many hospitals and if they close this one that just leaves Barnet, which is too far and too full.’

Decorator David Fowler said: ‘It’s not just this hospital under threat, it’s every hospital. Why are they closing hospitals when there’s a growing, ageing population.’

Medical researcher Lesley Morris said: ‘I live in Edgware, where we had a fine hospital, but they closed the A&E and replaced it with a walk-in centre. If they close Chase Farm, where will people go, overload Barnet still more? We take too much lying down. We should march on the government for closing down hospitals. I’d like to lead the march.’

Mary, a nurse in the Surgical wing, told News Line: ‘All departments here are important, very busy and short of staff. They must invest in this hospital and reduce nurses’ workload. I’ve just come off night shift and I’m very, very tired.’

Harlesden Young Socialists member Scott Dore said: ‘This hospital must stay open, people really need it, where else would they go?’

Patient Carolyn Sobers said: ‘It would be a disaster for the local community if they closed this hospital. I’ve got a young family so it’s really important to me.’

Local worker John Oracokhat said: ‘My daughter Toke was born here and they were wonderful to all of us. A month ago Toke poked herself in the eye, we went to A&E and they sorted it out really quickly and well.’

Alison Petrie, an Executive PA, said: ‘I have parents of 81 and 82 who live in Cheshunt and this hospital saved my dad’s life four years ago, when he had a heart attack. He was brought in by ambulance within 15-minutes and stabilised within five-and-a-half hours. The workers here definitely saved his life and I am extremely grateful to them. I feel so strongly that this hospital must not close and I support the idea of an occupation.’

Mitchell Leech, a porter, said: ‘I live in Barnet and it takes me half an hour minimum to get here, by bus it would be a nightmare. We must save this hospital. I’d hate to be out of work and so would my mates.’

Porter Terry Lynch said: ‘I’ve worked here five years and I know how important this hospital is, it’s saved countless lives. The care and attention you get here is great and it’s a good place to work, with no-one breathing down your neck all the time like in other places, so you’re able to get on with the job. There’s great team work here, we all help each other for the good of the patients.’

Mechanical fitter Dean Gunning said: ‘I was born here and I’ve worked here for three years now. It’s got to be saved. I would support an occupation to stop it closing. My wife is expecting a child and we want it to be born here.’

Electrician Jash Mali said: ‘I’ve worked here a year and I love my job. There’s nothing more important than working for the NHS. The whole workforce is committed to this hospital. It’s a big borough, too much for Barnet. This place must be saved.’

Lola, a UNISON member in Outpatients said: ‘Why did they send a memorandum to all departments in the hospital saying people on this picket are saying they’re closing this hospital and it’s not true. It is true. We’ve heard from reliable sources they’re winding down over three years.’

TGWU member and local 121 bus driver Michelle Diedrich said: ‘It’s disgusting. I hear people on my bus every day saying this hospital must stay open.’ Michelle’s daughter Melissa added: ‘People would die on the way to Barnet.’

Patient Narimal Annul said: ‘Signing petitions isn’t enough, we must do whatever it takes to save this hospital. I would support a sit-in and I believe the whole community would.’

Craig O’Connor, visiting with his two-year-old son Shane, said: ‘I was born here, Shane was born here. It’s a brilliant hospital. My missus is here now with my sick baby daughter. The nurses and staff are great. I agree with the trade unions fighting to stop the closure and occupying it.’

Simos and Maroulla Georgiou said: ‘We can’t let it close. We’ve been here so many years. We read in the paper they want to close it down and build flats, it’s ridiculous, let the poor die – to make millions for the property developers.’

Annie Edgar-Chelcher, from Tower Hamlets UNISON branch, said: ‘The unions need to do something. They arrange strikes over pay but hospitals are fundamental. Why don’t they organise a national strike or something? I think it’s excellent the Council of Action is taking a positive stand and planning action.’

Anna Athow, a BMA rep and surgeon in a nearby north London hospital, said: ‘There’s nothing independent about the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. It was created by the government, is funded by the government.

‘Local people made it clear on three large marches, petitions and the election of local councillors, they want Chase Farm to stay open as an Acute General Hospital.

‘This must happen and North East London Council of Action is continuing its campaign, including another march and physical action if necessary to keep it open.’

Bob Savage, ex-Sogat member said: ‘At the North East London Council of Action meetings, instead of saying we are going to try and save Chase Farm we have an attitude that we are going to save Chase Farm and I’m sure that we will be successful.’

Student nurse Mercy Asare said: ‘This is a lovely hospital and we have to fight for it. I prefer it to all the others I know. The standard of care is high and the teaching is good, as students we get a lot of support.’

Student nurse Millicent Boateng said: ‘This is a good hospital. I was surprised when I saw the picket, it shows that people really want to save it.’

Midwife Ayn Carmel said: ‘This is a beautiful hospital. The whole area is nice, that’s why they want the land for luxury apartments. I went to the meeting in the Hollybush, the next meeting is on 10th June and if I’m working I’ll swop so I can come.’

Trainee teacher Alison Jackson said: ‘They want to open polyclinics which they liken to a wheel and the GPs to spokes. But it’s hospitals that are at the centre of the NHS, not polyclinics. The system we’ve got works, it must be saved.’

Aleyfyah Ali, a personal trainer, said: ‘I went on the last march to keep our hospital. Closing GP surgeries and replacing them with polyclinics is horrible, they are soulless shells, completely impersonal, the opposite of GP surgeries where you know your GP and your GP knows you. I’ll come to the Council of Action meeting to hear what’s going on.’

Unite union member Anthony Thomas said: ‘The trade unions have to lead the fight. I’ve bought my ticket for the ATUA Conference on 29th June and I’ll try to get my friends along.’

Alvin and Bhadra Meisuria said: ‘They’ve closed Highland Hospital and now they are selling off the land here to property developers, instead of improving the hospital and investing in healthcare.’

Alvin added ‘I’ll come to the Council of Action meeting. I want to hear how we are going to save this hospital.’

A courier who works for the labs stopped at the picket and said he had been told he wouldn’t be coming to Chase Farm much longer, as they are already moving stuff out.