Over two hundred workers and youth marched and rallied against the planned closure of King George Hospital, Ilford on Saturday.
News Line spoke to participants as they assembled outside the hospital in Goodmayes before marching to a rally on the steps of Redbridge Town Hall.
March organiser Usdaw member Andy Walker said: ‘There is a plan to close the A&E and over 400 beds, virtually closing the hospital, which will cause unnecessary distress and suffering to the people of Redbridge.
‘We are determined to fight the closure.
‘We hope to have a bigger rally and march in April during the general election campaign with the aim of persuading one of the major political parties to give a guarantee of keeping the A&E open.’
Labour Party member Mohammed Ashraf said: ‘I’m against the closure of the A&E. I’m sick of these closures everywhere.
‘Instead of improving our hospitals, they are closing them down – there is a long enough wait as it is.
‘I urge everybody to come out for this protest, our children’s future is tied up in this.
‘People face losing jobs as well as medical care.
‘We have to make the biggest protest to let them know we care about our NHS and A&E.
‘The closure has to be stopped somehow.
‘We are wasting more money on other people’s wars when we are putting our people at risk by cutting the NHS.
‘If it takes a sit-in, we will support it.’
A lively delegation from the North East London Council of Action joined the march and won support for its chants of ‘No polyclinics, defend the NHS! Occupy King George, stop the closure!’
Car salesman Imran Khan joined the march with a colleague. He told News Line: ‘We are marching to stop the closure of the A&E.
‘I’ve got three kids, two of them I took into the King George emergency.
‘I wouldn’t like to think what would happen if it wasn’t there.
‘No car dealer on the High Street wants the A&E to close.
‘We need something organised to stop the closure, I would support an occupation to stop it.’
Child minder Marilyn Field said: ‘We can’t let King George close.
‘It’s overstretched as it is, so how can you close it?
‘It’s needed by thousands of people and they are building new homes with all those families.
‘If they close King George, people will have to go to Queen’s Hospital and that’s overstretched.
‘We have to stop the closure. I will support a sit-in.’
School secretary Diana Sullivan added: ‘I believe in keeping the A&Es open in the whole of London and outer London.
‘We need them all. We’ve got more people in the country and the population demands more facilities, not less.
‘We need to get the whole community behind the campaign.
‘I will support an occupation if it comes to it.
‘We have to keep our A&E and hospital open.’
Local resident Katy Hargreaves told News Line: ‘I need King George’s A&E, it’s integral to our community and our families.
‘I’ve got an accident-prone husband and two young children. Of course I’m going to need an A&E within easy reach.
‘I do support occupying the hospital to stop the closure.
‘It’s about time we had some power.
‘People equals passion, equals power – we have to mobilise it.’
Among speakers at the rally outside Redbridge Town Hall, Dagenham Labour MP, Culture Minister Margaret Hodge declared: ‘This is a cross party campaign.
‘Say No, No, No to closing King George.
‘Last time it was the power of the people that stopped the closure. We need that again.’
Consultant Surgeon, BMA Council member Anna Athow said: ‘Everyone knows that if an A&E closes, that is the beginning of the end of the hospital.
‘It is not just King George. It is happening throughout London. The Darzi plan “A Framework for Action” dictates that half to two thirds of London’s District General Hospitals must be downgraded or closed.
Chase Farm, Queen Mary’s Sidcup, are down for closure and the Whittington A&E is under threat, with West Middlesex, Central Middlesex and other hospitals under threat all over London.
‘If they downgrade them to Darzi Local Hospitals, they may lose their A&E after 8pm or have no functioning operating theatre at night.
‘If they close them, all that is left is a polyclinic and a treatment centre which is the plan for King George.
‘If they get away with this, Queens Romford and Whipps Cross will have catchment areas of near to half a million. But they are full to bursting as it is.
‘A polyclinic cannot be compared to a district general hospital. A patient with appendicitis, bleeding from a miscarriage, or a broken leg cannot be treated in a polyclinic.
‘An accident and emergency department is backed up by all the departments of a whole hospital, with consultant-led teams, with access to investigations and a path lab where blood can be cross matched, and with inpatient beds to admit patients.
‘Why are they doing this?
‘Not just to make the £5bn cuts which they are making across London, but because they are privatising care.
‘Polyclinics and treatment centres are tailor-made for the private sector. The treatment centre at the door of King George is owned by a private company.
‘Every District General Hospital must be kept open. We should do whatever it takes to keep them running.
‘The unions should be calling action. Everyone should support the national march through London on April the 10th.
‘My union, the BMA, is organising a Look After Our NHS campaign, publicly funded, publicly provided. Put patients before profits for shareholders.
‘The message is no hospital must close.
‘You need to set up councils of action and if necessary sit-in and, with the doctors and nurses, keep the hospital working.’
Whipps Cross Hospital Unison joint branch secretary Len Hockey said: ‘We should stop all the gains of working people, which include the right to healthcare, being sacrificed on the altar of profit.’
Labour councillor Bob Littlewood told the rally: ‘People are angry.
‘We thought we’d beaten them two years ago, we’ll just have to do it again.’
The rally was also addressed by Labour MP Mike Gapes and Liberal Democrat and Tory councillors.