‘SAVE Charlie Chaplin ward – Don’t let it close! Save Ealing Hospital – Trade unions must act! Defend children’s services – Occupy now!’ demanded over 200 workers and youth on Saturday.
They were taking part in a march led by ‘Charlie Chaplin’, drummer, Harbinder Singh, and young children from Southall to Ealing Hospital organised by the West London Council of Action.
There was an urgency in the call for trade unions to take action as the Charlie Chaplin children’s ward is set for closure on June 30th and from that date children won’t be accepted into the hospital’s A&E.
News Line spoke to marchers before they set off. Retired British Airways worker Javed Iqbal said: ‘We don’t want them to close Ealing Hospital. We don’t want them to close any department. They want to close the whole hospital. They started with the maternity, now they want to close the children’s ward and then go on to close the A&E.
‘We have to stop all this. We need the hospital for everyone. We don’t want to go far away, we need our local hospital.
‘The majority has to come and stop the closure, the unions should as well now. They should back an occupation. Occupation is the way forward and the unions should back that with strike action to defend the occupation. We need to kick the Tory government out, they are ruining the country.’
Regular participant in the Council of Action’s daily picket of the hospital, Kaushayla Gussar, a retired tea factory worker, said: ‘I’m here to support and save Ealing Hospital. We want the Charlie Chaplin ward to be kept open as well as the A&E. The people who live in Southall and Hanwell and disabled people rely on Ealing Hospital.
‘They can’t afford to go miles to Hillingdon or Northwick Park hospitals. We want to keep our local hospital. The trade unions support our march but they need to do more.
‘They should back an occupation to stop the closures.’
Retired nurse Anselm Adims said: ‘I am on the daily picket of Ealing Hospital every morning. We can’t let them close it. It’s time the trade unions came together to raise their voice and organise action to stop the closure. We want expansion of the hospital, not closure. The population of Southall and Ealing is increasing. If they close the hospital, where are these people going to go? We need to occupy and for the unions to back and defend the occupation.’
Ealing Central and Acton Labour MP Rupa Huq stopped by the march before it set off.
She told News Line: ‘Obviously, I condemn the closure. We have a rising population. We need our local hospital. The closure of the maternity last year was the writing on the wall. Now it’s the children’s ward as well. I’m a mum that’s why I’m concerned that they plan to close the children’s ward. It’s appalling that Ealing Hospital is being run down.’
Library campaigner Valerie Lindon from Brixton said: ‘I’ve come here with some of my colleagues to march to defend Ealing Hospital’s ward for children. It’s important for children to have a hospital for them where it’s well needed. Closing the hospital would be a blow to parents and their children who need a service when they’re ill to be properly looked after. The unions should be involved and take action to support the hospital. Children are vulnerable and are the future.
‘If they can’t be looked after in their environment and have to travel miles away, then they could die. With the Charlie Chaplin ward due to close in June, an occupation is needed with the public and the unions. We have to show this government we care about the NHS. The government should be out in any case, there’s been too many cuts hitting the most vulnerable people.’
Inderjit Tiwana from the Miri Piri Gurdwara said: ‘I’m here with my colleagues from the temple. We feel that if they shut down Ealing Hospital, where will people go? There should be another solution to treat people the right way at the right time. We need the children’s ward for the next generation. From school children to older people, if the NHS is shut down in Ealing we are not happy.
‘Already you have to wait hours for treatment. They should have more staff and facilities, not less. We need a local hospital in Southall. It’s dangerous for people to have to travel miles away to get treatment. The trade unions should organise action immediately.’
Jaswinder Pannu said: ‘I live near Ealing Hospital, I don’t want it to close. My mum is 86-years-old. She’s poorly and relies on it. I’m not happy with the plan to close the children’s ward. Little children need this hospital, they can’t go far away to get treatment. I’m in the Workers Revolutionary Party Southall branch. We want the trade unions to take action. All the unions should strike and get rid of this Tory government. The Tories are making too many cuts and want to privatise the NHS. Nobody can afford to go private.’
Sahra Aden said: ‘I’m a carer for my husband. I’ve taken time out to join the march.
‘We have to save the children’s ward. Last year I joined the occupation to save the maternity. We have to occupy to save the children’s ward and the unions must back us this time.’
At a short rally outside Ealing Hospital entrance, West London Council of Action secretary Tony McEvoy said: ‘The fight is just beginning, we’re not going to let the hospital close children’s services. On June 30 they are going to close Charlie Chaplin children’s ward and stop children using the A&E. This government is determined to smash up the NHS. But the working class is powerful. What is lacking is the trade unions taking action.
”The trade union leadership is out to isolate us. We will not be isolated. We support the junior doctors. What is needed is a general strike to kick this government out. Health Secretary Hunt has to go. We occupied the maternity last year. We hold a daily picket and we are holding a mass picket on 3rd June. We ask everyone to join us. We call on all the workers here don’t let this hospital close. We will support you all, A&E staff, children’s ward staff, everyone.’
Equity member David Girt, alias ‘Charlie Chaplin’, told the rally: ‘Let’s march forward in peace, love and hope. Let’s make a better world for our children, that’s what Charlie Chaplin wanted.’
Surinder Grewal said: ‘We don’t want the children’s ward to close, we want to keep it open. If there’s nowhere for the children, they’ll be nowhere for the people who work here, they’ll lose their jobs. Join our picket every morning!’
Salinder Dhillon of the Indian Workers Association (IWA) said: ‘I bring my support on behalf of the IWA. We have over 100,000 signatures for our petition opposing the closure. The trade unions must act to stop the closure of Ealing Hospital.’
Anselm Adims told the rally: ‘This is a very serious situation. We are here to fight. We must not let Ealing Hospital close. We must not let the government do it. We must have the support of the trade unions.’
Chas from Walthamstow Young Socialists said: ‘It’s good that everyone is out defending something they believe in. Our generation leads the way. We have to fight this government. Everybody has come out for one reason, we have to win.’
In a few closing remarks McEvoy said: ‘It’s the responsibility for all trade unions to defend this hospital. When they closed Chase Farm in Enfield a child with meningitis died because he could not get treated in time. These trade union leaders have to fight or be removed. The Tory government is split from top to bottom it can and has to be removed by a general strike.’