OVER 70 hospital staff, patients, supporters and trade unionists held a rally outside the threatened Whipps Cross District General Hospital in Walthamstow, north London yesterday.
Workers were eager to sign up at the launch of a campaign to form a Council of Action to occupy Whipps Cross Hospital to prevent it from closing and to stop the cuts.
Bill Rogers, chairman of Chingford ASLEF, said: ‘Our branch recently passed a motion calling for the setting up of a council of action to organise and maintain an occupation of Whipps Cross, Chase Farm and the North Middlesex hospitals to prevent cuts and closure.’
Tony Phillips, UNISON Branch Secretary for the London Fire Authority, told News Line: ‘Trade union leaders must call a national demonstration to save the NHS from privatisation, because that’s what Tony Blair’s government is essentially doing. They are privatising it in bite-size chunks.
‘In fact, we are putting a resolution through to the Greater London Regional Council saying name the day for a national demo.
‘My partner is a nurse at UCLH hospital. Under the Tory government she was part of an eight-week strike and occupation of a wing of the hospital that was threatened with closure.
‘They forced the then Health Secretary Virginia Bottomly to put up £2 million to keep wards open.’
Maria Bojang, CWU member, came to support the hospital workers. She said: ‘I would like to come to the meeting to help form a council of action.
‘I am a patient at Whipps Cross Hospital and I am really angry, it’s a disgrace!
‘Where would I go if this shut down, what about all the jobs?
‘I’m in the same boat, I don’t know if I will have a job tomorrow, the way they are closing down all of the post offices.
‘I agree with the policy of strike action and I would be prepared to occupy a ward to stop it from closing.’
Mr Birch, who works in the local area, said: ‘I live in Hornchurch, where they’ve just finished a brand new hospital and I think they want to call it the Queen Elizabeth, it has 880 beds.
‘They have already closed down Harold Hill Hospital, Old Church Hospital and are threatening Whipps Cross and St George’s.
‘This means that all the patients in a 12-14-mile radius will have to use one hospital. That’s disgusting! Not everybody can travel, not everyone has got a car, how do you even get to the hospital to visit people?
‘There’s thousands of reasons why they shouldn’t close hospitals and all hospitals should be kept open.’
A domestic worker and UNISON member at Whipps Cross, Hilary Ross, said: ‘I’ve worked at Whipps Cross for 20 years and we have been through privatisation ourselves in the domestic department.
‘After they privatised the domestics they moved on to the porters, the switchboard and then the kitchen, but they have been forced to put the kitchen back in-house.
‘I think all services should go back in-house.
‘Whipps Cross should not be closed. I was always a Labour supporter but they are just like the Tories and that’s why I’m coming to the meeting to form a council of action.’