‘SAVE the Charlie Chaplin Ward, stop the closure of Children’s Services!’ demanded yesterday morning’s 7am-9am Mass Picket of Ealing Hospital.
The picket was called by the West London Council of Action against the closure of the 10th floor ward which cares for up to 15 sick children and infants at a time, and the barring of children under the age of 16 from the hospital’s A&E department, both set to happen from today.
Yesterday’s picket followed a powerful 300-strong march from nearby Southall to a rally at the hospital on Wednesday afternoon, when marchers chanted ‘Save Charlie Chaplin Ward – Occupy Now! No Cuts No Closures – Save Ealing Hospital! No Privatisation – Defend the NHS! Trade Unions Must Act – Save our Children’s Services!’
to loud cheers and applause as they proceeded down Southall Broadway
News Line spoke to a number of marchers and local people at the Miri Piri Gurdwara assembly point and en route.
Teja Basra said: ‘I work at a local school and this is the only hospital nearby. If people have to go far away children will suffer and possibly die. All the shops should be closed now to show their support for the march and the trade unions must take action to stop the closure.’
Sheraz Fazel, aged 19, one of a large and lively delegation of students from Southall College, said: ‘We have to save Ealing Hospital’s children’s area. What if I had kids? Ealing Hospital is near where I live, I can’t travel all the way to Hammersmith. We should take action, everyone should strike.’
Fathima Salma, Southall College student and Southall resident, said: ‘I want to help save emergency care at Ealing Hospital. Children’s lives are the most important and we must save them. All children are like our own children and we have a duty to protect them.’
Jasutha Karnam, Southall College student aged 18, said: ‘I’m proud to be here today. I want to support the fight to stop the closure. Pregnant ladies should be able to have their babies at Ealing and the maternity unit should be reopened. Students and workers should all take strike action to save our services.’
Ranusan Manohocrathas, aged 18, from Southall College, said: ‘If you close Ealing Hospital a lot of problems will come because a lot of people live in Southall from different countries and with different languages. Ealing Hospital takes care of people so nicely and is able to deal with all the different languages. We are determined we are going to keep our services.’
Sarah Mair said: ‘I’m a nurse in the endoscopy department and I’m retiring tomorrow having worked at Ealing for 18 years. I think it is terrible that they are closing down such a good hospital. I also worked as an obstetrics nurse in maternity and the quality of care was very high before that was taken away last year. Every department is essential for this hospital and if they close they must be reopened.’
Mark Colwell, a young worker from Glasgow who now works in London as a dispatcher. He carried the main banner all the way and said: ‘It’s shocking, why would they do this to our children? We are marching and campaigning to save our NHS.’
Gloria Wildman, from the Charing Cross Save Our Hospitals campaign, said: ‘This must be stopped, every person on this planet is a necessity and we all need hospitals.’ Javed Iqbal, from Southall Mosque, said: ‘We announced the march in the mosque and everyone was very angry. We can’t let them close the children’s ward.’
Retired airport worker Parmjit Basra said: ‘My wife and I have been trade union members all our lives and the airport trade unions should all come out to fight for Ealing Hospital. Thousands of airport workers live in Southall and they all need Ealing Hospital.’
Lubna Maria, with her young child in a pushchair, joined the march as it reached the busiest stretch of the route, saying: ‘I support this fight, I have two children, I live in Southall and I need this hospital.’ Manjit Sandhu, from the Miri Piri Gurdwara, said: ‘I joined the occupation of the maternity when they closed it last year and I’ve joined the march today. This isn’t the end of the fight, it’s the beginning. We won’t give up.’
Evans Weekes, from Hoxton Young Socialists, said: ‘I’ve come to support Ealing. If the same happened to the Homerton where I live I would do the same. There should be a big strike to save the NHS.’ Malique Wilson, from Walthamstow YS, said: ‘We are marching to save Ealing children’s ward. They are closing it tomorrow and that will harm children. We need to kick this government out. We need a new government system, a socialist system.’
Leading the march, Equity member David Girt (Charlie Chaplin) said: ‘I stand for what Charlie Chaplin stood for. He always stood for the little man and the poor. He lived here and went to the school for orphans and pauper children in Hanwell. He was there with his brother Sydney who became his manager and when he became rich he visited and stayed with the children and brought them presents on at least two occasions.
‘He was a big star and it was his proud boast as an old man that although his films were museum pieces in Europe he was still number one in Asia and you can see that from the response as I was marching, with all the hoots and the waves from the shoppers and shopkeepers.’
At the rally at the end of the march, Jonty Leff, Workers Revolutionary Party Assistant General Secretary, said: ‘It is impossible to let Ealing close. When a child has meningitis you have a very short space of time if that child is to be saved. This is a political struggle because the government is attacking hospital services right across London and they want to close District General Hospitals across the country. This government must be brought down.’
Local mother and West London Council of Action campaigner Surinder Grewal said: ‘We need this hospital for our children. We should all stay together and say this is not acceptable, they have to reverse this decision. Other hospitals are already overcrowded, all the departments in this hospital must remain open.’
Fathima Salma, Treasurer at Southall College Students Union, said: ‘When we heard they were going to close the children’s ward we made a banner for this march. We all agreed, we have to save the Charlie Chaplin Children’s Ward.’
David Girt (Charlie Chaplin) said: ‘Keep on marching together brothers and sisters and put people before profits. Long Live the Charlie Chaplin Ward!’ Anselm Adims, retired Ealing nurse, said: ‘Thank-you all for coming. The fight is just beginning. We are not going to stop. The population of Ealing is growing and we’re not going to give up. They have to keep paediatrics, reopen maternity and keep open the A&E. So join us in the struggle.’
Hillingdon Hospital strike leader Malkiat Bilku, now a daily campaigner for Ealing Hospital, said: ‘It is a shame to Unison, the GMB and the TUC leaders for failing to defend this hospital and to defend jobs. The children’s ward has to say open. We’re not going to accept this, we are serious. We are not going to go anywhere, we will be here tomorrow morning.’
A group of Medirest workers who came out to join the rally was loudly cheered. GMB member Joyly Rodrigues said: ‘We came out to save our Children’s Ward. We must save it. We want action from the trade unions.’ Constancio Rodrigues said: ‘There must be action to defend this hospital and all its services. The standards are very high.’
Closing the rally, Bill Rogers, Chairman of the Chingford Aslef branch said: ‘We struggled for many years at Chase Farm hospital. We occupied it and were forcibly evicted by the police. The trade unions didn’t lift a finger to stop the closure when they closed the A&E.
‘The Tory government is split and divided. The only way to keep services open and stop all these cuts and closures is for the TUC to call a general strike, bring the government down and bring in a workers government that will reopen every hospital that has closed.’