THE 10th picket by the North East London Council of Action outside Chase Farm Hospital yesterday heard that the closure of the hospital has been referred to the Health Secretary.
At the start of the day there were over 40 trade unionists and youth on the picket line and dozens more continued to join in during the course of the day, determined to keep Chase Farm open.
Save Chase Farm Councillor Kieran McGregor told News Line: ‘Yesterday the joint health scrutiny committees of Enfield, Barnet, Haringey and Herts councils called in the decision of the PCTs to “reconfigure” services in north-east London.’
The decision will now be referred to the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson.
He may refer it to the IRP (Independent Review Panel) to review the process and the decision.
This means the decision to close Chase Farm is ‘on hold’, McGregor said.
He continued: ‘Today, the planning appeals reconvenes at Enfield Town Hall for six days and the planning inspector will make a ruling on whether the PCTs can proceed with building 279 houses on the hospital site.
‘The Save Chase Farm campaign thinks he should reject the planning application or adjourn it until the future status of the hospital is decided.’
Consultant surgeon Anna Athow, from North Middlesex Hospital, speaking in a personal capacity, told News Line: ‘Despite the call of the scrutiny committees to refer the PCTs’ closure decision to Alan Johnson, local people must be vigilant.
‘Gordon Brown’s government is pressing ahead with hospital closures and privatisation.
‘Only the mobilisation of staff, trade unions and the local population and physical mass action can keep Chase Farm open as an acute district general hospital.’
Gemma, a dietician at the hospital, told News Line: ‘The closure of this hospital would result in deaths.
‘It sees so many different types of people with so many different conditions. It must stay open.
‘I am in the union and the unions should demand it stays open.’
Glenys Dodge, a clerical worker, said: ‘It’s terrible. The A&E and Maternity are the most important departments and yet they are threatened with closure.
‘You can’t manage without them.
‘I work at Barnet and they closed Edgware as a main hospital, they closed the A&E. Now they’ve got a walk-in centre.’
Machinist and local resident, Leonard Brooks, said: ‘All three of my children were born here. They should not be closing anything. We have to save this hospital.’
Local resident Janet Phillips said: ‘I live on the Willow Estate and we are always campaigning.
‘I would be prepared to occupy to save my local hospital.’
Prospect trade union member, Colin Potter, said: ‘If it came down to occupation, I would have sympathy.
‘Sometimes you have to push the boundaries.’
Bill Rogers, secretary of the North East London Council of Action, which called yesterday’s mass picket, said: ‘This is our 10th picket.
‘They haven’t announced a closure date yet.
‘When they announce a date, we’ll have to organise an occupation. It will have to involve the trade unions, the local community, the pensioners and the youth.
‘The local community and the youth are eager to occupy to defend Chase Farm hospital.
‘At the end of the 3,000-strong march to save Chase Farm Hospital in November, I put it to the mass meeting: would you be prepared to occupy, and a great cheer went up.’