‘WE’RE having a very good picket today, enjoying the sunshine,’ North-East London Council of Action Secretary Bill Rogers told News Line on Tuesday.
He continued: ‘Lots of staff have joined our campaign and agree with an occupation to stop the closure of Chase Farm A&E, Maternity and Children’s departments.
‘They all agree that the trade unions should organise a general strike to bring down this government.
‘The thoughts of the picket line go to Lenny Edwards, one of our regular pickets, who is very ill in hospital at the moment.
‘We all appreciate the NHS caring for us.
‘This makes us more determined than ever to defend the NHS.’
Former nurse Joan Pierre was on the picket line.
She said: ‘I’m here to support keeping Chase Farm open. We need it.
‘I worked here as a nurse 20 years ago.
‘This hospital has served the people for a long time and the community needs it. Closing the A&E, Maternity and Children’s Unit would be a disaster for the community.
‘We are determined to do whatever is necessary to keep Chase Farm open.
‘That means occupation if they announce the closure.
‘The unions should support this fight and defend any occupation.
‘Closing the hospital will not only hit patients, it will cost staff their jobs so the unions have to join this fight.’
Healthcare assistant Maggie Vergottini added: ‘I work at Edgware Breast Unit. We lost our A&E about 10 years ago and it was replaced by an Urgent Treatment Centre, which used to be open all night.
‘Now it’s only open until 11.00pm.
‘People have to go to Barnet, which is quite a distance for people in Edgware.
‘The locals loved the old A&E. The closure had a big impact, especially on the elderly.
‘My son was always in the A&E. The plan to close Chase Farm A&E and Maternity is disgusting.
‘People’s lives would be put at risk, both emergency patients and mothers and babies.
‘My daughter just had a baby at UCLH and she was immediately looked after with the baby rushed into intensive care.
‘What would happen here in that situation if the closure went ahead? We have to stop the closure.
‘I live locally now and need Chase Farm as much as anybody. It’s a big area, Enfield.
‘I’d support a sit-in and the unions should support that.’
Mental health nurse Michelle Greenfield told News Line: ‘Chase Farm is a fabulous hospital. I’ve always had excellent treatment here, I’ve worked here and think the staff are fantastic.
‘We have to keep the hospital open. How can you expect to close Chase Farm and just have Barnet for serving all these boroughs? It’s not possible.
‘I support a sit-in to stop the closure. We have to do everything to keep this place open.
‘The unions should support us and especially the workers who want to fight this.
‘It’s terrible what the government are bringing in with the new Health Bill. It’s to privatise and destroy the NHS.
‘We can’t let that happen. You only have to look at other countries.
‘There should be mass action by the unions to bring the government down.’
Staff, patients and local residents made it clear to News Line on Tuesday they are as determined as ever to stop the closure of Chase Farm Hospital.
They were speaking during the North London Council of Action monthly picket of the hospital.
Hospital volunteer Wilson Ogoluna said: ‘I didn’t know much about the closure plans.
‘Shutting down any hospital is no good.’
Commenting on the plans to close the A&E, Maternity and Children’s departments, he added: ‘It’s obvious you need a place where people can give birth, a place for people in emergencies, and a place to look after children.
‘They are all necessary things. Chase Farm and all its departments should stay open, it’s necessary. People should try their best to keep it open. I would support people occupying to stop the closure. Everyone has right to stand up for what they believe in, especially as it’s a good cause.’
Enfield resident Sue Mercado said: ‘My daughter Rachel is an outpatient at the hospital. The plan to close the A&E, Maternity and Children’s departments is disgusting. Where would we go? It would be especially bad for the elderly. People’s lives would be in danger in an emergency, having to travel further. We have to stop the closure. I’ll support an occupation to keep all Chase Farm open.
‘If they close down the Children’s unit, it would affect the nursery, and my daughter who works there. We have to win.’
Sue’s daughter Rachel Lathbury added: ‘I was born here and so was my brother and sister – also my niece and nephew. It’s just so sad what they plan. It’s a good Maternity unit, they do a good job there. I am hoping to have my children here one day. So we have to stop the closure. I’ll join a sit-in. Everyone should join and work together to get the result we want and need, which is keeping the whole hospital open. The unions must back it.’
Outpatient Soumaia Chetovan declared: ‘It’s not right what they are planning. It’s just to save money, but it would be bad for people’s health and for the whole community because you would have to travel further to get to another hospital. And there would be longer waiting lists. If they cut here, you wonder what will be next. They’ll take more off us if we don’t stand our ground.
We have to fight the closure with pickets like this to make people aware why we have to stand together. We need as many people as possible. I would support people occupying the hospital, we have to do everything to save Chase Farm. We have to show we are prepared to go as far as it takes. The unions must back us and defend any occupation with strike action if necessary. They have to stand up for workers and their families. The government are cutting too much. It’s affecting every single service in this country, families, everybody. We have to bring the government down. If a general strike was possible, everyone should support that.’
Enfield resident Howard Shaw said: ‘I’m against the closure plan. The community relies on Chase Farm Hospital. The more they condense what this hospital does or move it to another site, there is the less ease of access for sick people, for people in need. We have to alert and organise the community. The more people we can get on board the better.’
Local resident Sheila Nellis joined the picket yesterday morning. She said: ‘I ask why should I have to be standing outside this hospital fighting for its survival. This is our hospital. I just do not understand the government’s reasoning for closing it. We must do whatever it takes to keep Chase Farm open, that includes occupation. Personally, I just wish that people of Enfield and the surrounding area would just realise that if they stood up to be counted and they fight against this closure it would have to be kept open.’
Nil Sahin was visiting a sick relative at Chase Farm Hospital and told News Line: ‘We can’t possibly allow this hospital to close.
‘We need it. My relative is sick at Chase Farm with an infection and Chase Farm is saving her life and taking good care of her.’
Anne Withers said: ‘I think Chase Farm should remain open because Barnet and North Middlesex cannot cope.
‘In an emergency getting to Barnet, with traffic as it is, will be impossible and people will die.
‘I don’t think they have enough specialised ambulances as back-up if they close the A&E.
‘With the increase in population, the situation will become worse.
‘They have allowed the buildings to deteriorate at Chase Farm.
‘The nurses’ homes are diabolical. They must spend more money on the hospital.’
North East London Council of Action Secretary Bill Rogers added: ‘We are calling on everyone to come to our next meeting at St Michael’s church hall, Chase Side. We have to be ready to occupy Chase Farm the moment they announce the closure is going ahead.’