WELWYN and Hatfield Keep NHS Public campaign called a picket to stop the imminent closure of the A&E and the Maternity services at the QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City on Wednesday.
Secretary of the Welwyn and Hatfield Keep NHS Public campaign, Barry Cross, said: ‘We need to get people involved in the campaign. This affects everybody.
‘We have to make our voices heard, get active and get involved.
‘The union leaders are just signing people’s jobs away and taking redundancies.
‘We need to get the unions involved and we would call for strike action to defend the hospital.
‘A lot of people think that it is done and dusted and you can do nothing about it.
‘We need a mass involvement to stop the closures.
‘I’m glad North East London Council of Action gave invaluable help and assistance today, we have made a big impact.
‘I think we should call a march.
‘When they start making the closures happen, Unison want to have an hour vigil, but that’s just praying for a miracle or reading the NHS its last rites.
‘We need to be pro-active and have decisive action, whatever it takes to stop the closure.
‘The authorities’ plan is to build a small place in the space which is now the car park that would be a quarter of the size of the QEII, be reduced to only 200 staff, have no hospital beds, and just be a series of clinics.
‘The building work is due to start in 2012 and they say it will be ready to use by 2014.
‘Their plan is to then knock down the hospital and build a “care home facility’’.
‘We are not going to let this happen.
‘It is a good idea to occupy, we have to support the staff and help them initiate it.’
Bill Rogers, secretary of the North East London Council of Action, said: ‘We are supporting the picket organised by Welwyn and Hatfield Keep NHS Public to defend the QEII Hospital.
‘We are also calling for all health workers, youth, students and all workers to join us at the lobby of the TUC called by the Young Socialists on Monday September 12.
‘The lobby of the TUC is demanding to defend the NHS through organising a general strike to bring down this government and for a workers government.’
Angela Greenford, a pregnant mum, said: ‘I have had my first child at QEII and am expecting my second.
‘I was shocked to find out that maternity services will be moved to Stevenage.
‘I live literally five minutes from the QEII but have been told that I have to have my baby in Stevenage.
‘What happens if it’s a quick birth and my baby is born in a car, ambulance or on a bus?
‘It is ridiculous that there is a perfectly good hospital here with qualified staff that I have no complaints about.
‘What happens to the staff here?
‘Teachers went on strike and they are an essential service, if the hospital covers the essential services then surely sections of the hospital can come out on strike.’
Louise Wicks said: ‘They will have blood on their hands if they close the QEII, I work here so I should know.
‘They are removing beds and there will not be enough beds for the patients.
‘In the unit I work for they have closed down nine beds.
‘I now have to work at the Lister.
‘This means I will have to commute an extra hour to an hour-and-a-half a day.’
Ann Spencer, who works in the threatened maternity department, said: ‘I know first-hand that the closure will limit the choice for women in the local community, especially people from the more socially deprived areas.
‘It will mean long journeys for the women, put more pressure on the already busy A1M and, if there is a complication, then the chances of babies or mums dying in childbirth or having poorer outcomes will be increased, and that is wrong.’
Local resident and campaigner Timothy Muggleton said: ‘In 1999, when I first heard about the merger of Lister and QEII, I knew it would lead to this sort of thing.
‘I tried to form an anti-merger group, but nobody listened and eventually I had to bin it.
‘Now everything I said is coming true, of course they forgot I said it all those years ago, now it’s almost too late.
‘We have to act now as there’s so little time left.
‘As a last resort, strike action has to go ahead.
‘This is the last chance to stop this calamity from happening.’
Local resident Mrs Jordan said: ‘I have been living in this area since 1974 and I was here before the hospital had even been built.
‘Especially for older people to travel to Stevenage, it’s simply too far to go.
‘If you haven’t got transport, it costs a lot of money.
‘I live next door to the hospital. I would support a sit-in, I have done a lot of signing of petitions, and as a community we will fight to keep it open – we need it here!’
Tara Faha, who works at the QEII, said: ‘I work in the laboratories as a biomedical scientist.
‘I am not happy about the proposed closure of my own lab.
‘I believe we should do whatever we can to keep the hospital open.’
Margaret Beaumont, an elderly local resident, said: ‘I have been here for 55 years and I attend the Ascot Day Hospital, which is the cardiac unit which is part of the QEII.
‘The suggestion that we travel all the way to the Lister in Stevenage is absolutely crazy.
‘Has any of the management or the government ever tried to travel up the A1M, it’s unbelievably congested.
‘If an ambulance has got a heart attack patient, more people are going to die than are going to be saved.
‘I am 81, but I would still join in the sit-in as long as I can have a chair to sit in!’
Brenda Bridle said: ‘I came to the QEII because I had to have these special boots made, because one of my feet is shorter than the other.
‘This hospital is local, if you go to the Lister and you get stuck in a traffic jam in the Hatfield tunnel, then you are in trouble.
‘I have been campaigning for a long time to keep it open, I take my time out to be here and campaign, and that’s why I was up early to join the picket here today.’
QEII worker Rutherford Aguilar said: ‘I used to work in the Bayford ward/unit, but it’s now closed and that service has moved to the Lister Hospital.
‘I am worried about the people in Welwyn Garden City. If they have a stroke, how are they going to get to the Lister in Stevenage?
‘We must keep the QEII open and maintain our hospital.
‘They told me that they are going to remove the blue light service to A&E and also move the maternity ward to Lister. These services are extremely important.
‘I would support an occupation of the hospital because we need more facilities and we won’t let our hospital close, that is what we’re paying our taxes for.’
Jemma Gifford said: ‘I am over nine months pregnant and I don’t drive, so the maternity at the QEII is very local and the nurses are lovely and I like the services here.
‘The Lister Hospital in Stevenage would become a lot busier, because if all of Welwyn had to go there then it probably wouldn’t cope.
‘Every action will help this campaign, including strike action.’