TUESDAY’S mass picket of Chase Farm Hospital heard that the decision to close the hospital’s A&E, Maternity and Paediatric Departments has been ‘put on hold’.
Organised by the North East London Council of Action, it was the tenth monthly picket of the much-needed Enfield hospital since last March and one of the biggest so far, with more than 200 workers and residents stopping to lend their support during the course of the morning from 7am till 2pm.
Save Chase Farm Councillor Kieran McGregor reported that the decision by the local PCTs to ‘reconfigure’ services at the much needed Enfield hospital will now be referred to Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson.
McGregor asserted: ‘This means the decision to close Chase Farm is on hold.’
North East London Council of Action Secretary Bill Rogers responded: ‘I think it’s good the closure has apparently been put on hold.
‘It reflects the strength of the working class opposition to cuts and closures at Chase Farm.
‘I think it also reveals their weakness, that they are hesitant at moving forward in the face of the opposition led by the North East London Council of Action, its ten pickets, its march, the campaigning we’ve done and our threat to occupy.
‘But we’re not going to let our guard down for one second.
‘It’s more important than ever that trade unionists, hospital workers, local residents and especially lots of youth, come to the next meeting of the North East London Council of Action at the Hollybush pub, Lavender Hill, Enfield, on Tuesday 12 February at 7.30pm.’
Young Socialist member Natasha Hamilton, from Edmonton YS, told News Line why she joined the picket from 7am: ‘We have to save the hospital. I was born here and I’m not going to let them close the maternity. We must occupy.’
Davina Ungurlany, from Hackney YS said: ‘This government must not be allowed to close hospitals, trade unions must strike.’
Kevin Mousse, from Haringey YS said: ‘The closure of this hospital will hit the most vulnerable, the people who need it most, the elderly and the very young, but really, all of us.
‘We’re totally opposed to their strategy of polyclinics and so-called super-hospitals that can’t serve local people.’
Prayna, a pharmacist at Chase Farm, said: ‘This is a vital hospital. To travel to North Middlesex or Barnet is too far, especially for the elderly.’
Michael and Marianne Hanford said: ‘We came to A&E here. At our age we don’t want to drive miles. The service from the nurses and all the staff is impeccable.’
Colin Potter, a member of the Prospect union, said: ‘The trade unions have to save the hospitals. No-one is listening, so it’s going to have to come down to strikes – positive action.
‘The Labour government is not the Labour Party. I’m still proud to be a member of the Labour Party, but this government is opening the door to a return of the Tories.
‘I fundamentally oppose their foreign policy, their education policy and this, their health policy. If it comes down to occupation I would have sympathy. Sometimes you have to push the boundaries.’
Amicus union member Michael Sait said: ‘I’m here for a few days. I’m up from Kent where they’ve closed down Greenwich, my local hospital. They’re knocking it down and building flats.’
Julian Dargavel, a retired transport worker, said: ‘It’s a total disaster. The people of Enfield, especially the old people, need a 24-hour service as set out by Aneurin Bevan 60 years ago.
‘His statement at the time was a Rolls Royce service from the day people are born to the day they die, irrespective of their financial circumstances.
‘I’ve lived here for 42 years and my wife and boys have received treatment here. I’m lucky, I’ve got a car. If this place closes how can people manage? I know a doctor who says they’re already diverting patients from here to other hospitals. Something must be done before it’s too late.’
Ladies fashion designer and local resident George Michael, said: ‘I’ve been ill for four years with a number of complaints, including diabetes, and this is the hospital that treats me. If it closes it will be very difficult.
‘The trade unions have got big power. They can do a lot of things. We are just little people and they just push us where they want, but the trade unions can do a lot. I’m sure they can save this hospital. They just have to do something.’
Songul Has and her daughter Iskin, said: ‘Everyone’s entitled to free health care. It’s our lives. It shouldn’t be something you pay for. It’s like paying to live. It’s horrifying. The whole community has to act.’
Maggie Greening, who was with her young daughter Gabriella, said: ‘We were just talking about it. There are a lot of families in this area.
‘How can we feel safe in our homes without our hospital? It must be saved and have money spent on both the facilities and the fabric of the building. It’s a great hospital, the staff are incredible, professional, friendly and caring. It must be saved.’
Local decorator Cedric Ngala was visiting the hospital with his pregnant wife Natalie, who said: ‘I had my first baby in here and my second is due in March. Nobody said they were planning to close maternity and paediatrics.’
Cedric said: ‘We’ve got to do whatever is needed to save these vital local services.’
Martha Malekkou and her 14-year-old daughter Eleana, said: ‘It’s life and death. Where else can people go. It’s disgusting. People are going to be dying.
‘Of course we should occupy. How else is it going to be saved? The trade unions should organise a general strike to save the NHS.’
Teacher and ATL union member Andrea Lee said: ‘They’ve done the same in Yorkshire. My mum has to travel to Huddersfield from Halifax. I would support an occupation. What a good idea.’
Local resident and former telephone worker Mrs Chapman said: ‘They can’t close it. Barnet can’t cope with the extra work. My daughter had a premature baby. Barnet has 16 units for premature but had 23 in already. They don’t care about us anymore. It’s all about big money. Local people would support an occupation. They’ve got no choice.’
Maia Giorgi and her little daughter Sabina were visiting the hospital. Maia said: ‘This is an invaluable local recourse. She’s going to the A&E because she’s swallowed a penny.
‘We can’t get to Barnet in time in an emergency. I gave birth to both my children in this hospital and they were marvellous. I support anything, including an occupation. I think you would find all local people would.’
Carer and home help Sue Bartlett said: ‘I’ve rallied the MP, sent her the calendar back, went on the march, a fantastic march, put money in the pot, that’s about it. What more can you do?
‘The staff are wonderful, the A&E department you can’t fault. I’ve just visited two people in there, the gentleman is 96. How long would it take to get him to Barnet or North Mid? That’s why it’s so important. I’m an authority on the subject of the possible implications of closing this hospital. If there was an occupation, a sit-in, I’d be there, definitely.’
Gynaecologist, Dr Kong said: ‘They are planning to move to Barnet. It will deprive the women who live here locally. It’s a big worry.
‘And I’m especially concerned over the A&E. It’s a long way to Barnet.’