WE WILL NOT ALLOW CHASE FARM TO CLOSE! – say 1,000 marchers through Enfield on Saturday

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The powerful march leading off towards Enfield High Street
The powerful march leading off towards Enfield High Street

A THOUSAND youth and workers marched through Enfield town centre on Saturday, shouting: ‘Stop the Closure! Defend Chase Farm!’

They were led by the North-East London Council of Action and young people opposed to the closure of the Enfield hospital, waving ‘Save Chase Farm’ flags.

Many local Enfield residents came along with their own homemade placards including one that vowed: ‘We will never surrender.’

They kept up their chants of ‘Defend our hospital! Kick out the privateers!’, ‘Occupy Chase Farm! Stop the closure!’ and ‘Defend the NHS! Kick the government out!’

As the march went down the high street, many more people joined in.

Even a couple who were getting married in the local church turned out to support the demonstration.

There were banners from Save Chase Farm Maternity Unit, the News Line-All Trades Union Alliance, the Save Chase Farm Hospital campaign, the South-East London Council of Action and the Chagos Islands Community Association in Crawley, Sussex.

Laurie Dengel joined the march with three of her children, who carried home-made placards.

‘His banner says killing Chase Farm will kill my granny,’ she told News Line, pointing to the placard her son was carrying.

‘We live in Enfield: Chase Farm is our local hospital, and why should we go anywhere else, there’s nothing wrong with the services there.’

She added: ‘I think we have gone past the time when just saying things is going to work. Action speaks louder than words.’

Unite member and sacked Visteon worker Matt Goldsmith said: ‘Both of my children were born at Chase Farm. It’s my local hospital and it’s a very worthwhile cause.’

He added: ‘I think the unions should be backing this 100 per cent.

‘It is one of the most important things in the local community. There shouldn’t ever be closures of local hospitals.’

Dave Farmer, from Broxbourne, said he was born at Chase Farm Hospital.

He told News Line: ‘We learned this week that the NHS has sent back £1.7 billion to the Treasury – a phenomenal amount of money – whilst putting people’s lives at risk by taking away the A&E nearest the busiest part of the English motorway system.

‘You’ve also got the trauma centre for stroke victims being closed as well.

‘It means you will have to travel further, and if you’ve seen these adverts for stroke victims, it could mean the difference between life and death.’

He also stressed: ‘The services and staff commitment at Chase Farm are second to none.’

Stuart Hasler said: ‘I’ve lived all my life in Enfield. They should listen to us.

‘People with special needs, disabled people, people with mental health problems, and elderly people who have had a stroke – where will they go to?

‘There’s only one place they can go to, and that’s Chase Farm.

‘There won’t be room in North Middlesex and Barnet to hold people and it’s too far for people in wheelchairs or people who can’t walk properly if they’ve got arthritis.

‘Sometimes they have a bus strike, how will people get to the nearest hospital?

‘If they have a crash on the M25, what will happen if Chase Farm is closed? Keeping Chase Farm open could save someone’s life.’

Richard Stevens, a Unite member at Charing Cross Hospital, said: ‘We’re all part of the NHS and we have to stick by our fellow NHS workers.

‘The more NHS workers turn out, the more chance we have of saving Chase Farm.

‘At the end of the day, we’re all NHS, we have to unite together and get together.’

Barbara Hutchings said: ‘I’ve had three mini-strokes in the past 12 months and I’ve been rushed by ambulance to Chase Farm. I could be dead, couldn’t I, if Chase Farm had closed.

‘I was in Chase Farm from 8.30 to 12.30 at night and it was still full of patients. It’s needed.’

Chase Farm midwifery assistant Maria Suarez said: ‘We need our local hospital and our maternity unit. I work there and I want to keep my job!

‘I think we should be ready to occupy the hospital if we have to.’

Midwife Pat McAdden said: ‘Without a consultant unit at Chase Farm for maternity, they’re putting mothers and babies and risk.’

She said staff were determined to resist the closure.

Bill Rogers, secretary of North-East London Council of Action, opened the rally at the end of the march in St Paul’s Centre: ‘People voted “no’’ in the consultation, they didn’t want the closure of Chase Farm.

‘Tens of thousands have signed petitions. Thousands more have lobbied their MP.’

Rogers reminded the rally about what happened at Mid-Staffs, where patients have died.

‘They died because the hospital had seen fit to get rid of 150 staff,’ he said.

‘They also saw fit to comply with government targets and tick boxes to say they were getting on top of their financial problems.

‘But the rate of unnecessary deaths was steadily going up and up, until they began to ring alarm bells.

‘If they shut Chase Farm A&E, Maternity and Paediatrics departments, what’s going to happen? People will start to die as a direct result of the increased journey times.

‘If push comes to shove and we have to go in and occupy, we will make a call to the BMA and go to the TUC to demand a general strike to defend the NHS,’ Rogers said to loud applause.

Ivy Beard, from the Save Chase Farm campaign, said: ‘There are lots of things going on in the background.

‘Urgent care centres, polyclinics, home visits, resuscitation and four trauma centres in the centre of London, which will take 45 minutes to get to – the plans are you will not go to the local hospital first for a major trauma, it’s the four trauma centres.

‘And if you get a stroke, you’ll be sent to one of the eight hyper-acute units.

‘It would take three hours (to get treated), a lot longer than the 30 minutes that they’re saying.

‘They must take the CT scan first and diagnose it and consultants have said that every minute counts.

‘All this has come up since the court case and the court case was thrown out without hearing the full case.’

Mario Bonfante, sacked Visteon worker, said: ‘Visteon at the beginning of April threw us out within six minutes.

‘They threw us out with no redundancy, no notice of pay, nothing.

‘We saw the Irish occupy their factory and thought if they could do, we could do it.

‘We occupied the factory for a week and we picketed for seven weeks. In the end it was a victory.’

He added: ‘I’ve had hip replacements done at Chase Farm. It’s the nearest hospital.

‘Now I’m out of work I’m going to support the people to fight for Chase Farm. We need the NHS.

‘The rich people don’t give a damn! The poor people need unity and fight.’

Nash Campbell, YS National Secretary, said to loud cheers: ‘Why can’t they spend our money on the hospitals, not on wars, banks and the MPs’ expenses?

‘We will not give up this fight. Our determination is to keep Chase Farm open.’

Consultant surgeon Anna Athow, speaking in a personal capacity, said: ‘The government is out to destroy the NHS through cuts and privatisation.

‘PCTs have limited funds and are charged by the government with paying for PFI projects which are astronomically expensive and have to be paid back over 30 years.

‘The money is coming out of frontline care and Chase Farm is being sacrificed for financial reasons and that is the long and short of it.

‘Queen Mary’s Sidcup is being sacrificed in the same way. It’s not just us, it’s all over London and all over England.’

Under the ‘Darzi plan’ for London, she warned, ‘One half or two thirds of London’s District General Hospitals have to be run down or closed and all GPs clinics have to be herded into 150 polyclinics.

‘Chase Farm A&E would be replaced with a walk-in centre for minor injuries,’ she added, warning that there would be no complex care at Chase Farm under these plans.

She added that hospitals like Barnet were already ‘full to bursting’.

She warned that £15 billion more cuts to the NHS were being planned and said ‘we’re not going to have an NHS’, if the cuts are allowed to take place.

She called for the unity of working-class and middle-class people to stop this from happening.

‘We need to learn from the Visteon workers. They stood up and said we’re not having it and occupied their factory and drove the employers back.’

She concluded the rally by calling for an alliance of all public sector unions, coordinated by the TUC, and for a fight inside the unions ‘for national industrial action to defend the health service.’