|Volume 43 Number 1, January 13, 2013||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign:
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Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign:
Health Care is a Right! A Victory at Lewisham Hospital is a Victory for Everyone!
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Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign:
Preparations are going ahead with great enthusiasm and determination of the people of South London for a second big march and rally on Saturday, January 26. The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign organising committee supported by local residents, hospital workers, clinicians, GPs and local trade unionists, local churches and mosques are all optimistic that even more people will come out in support than the over 10,000 who were on the November 24 march.
On December 4, hundreds of people from Lewisham and other parts of south east London had crowded into the Calabash Centre in Catford in a “Converge On Kershaw” meeting to show government appointed administrator Matthew Kershaw what they thought of his plans to close down Lewisham Hospital’s A&E, maternity, other services and also to condemn the sell off Lewisham Hospital’s empty buildings for £17million. If Kershaw’s plans were implemented, the boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley, a total population of 750,000, would have to share one A&E at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich. Many people have pointed that lives would be lost with people having to travel all the way to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital which, unlike Lewisham Hospital, is very badly served by public transport.
The “Converge On Kershaw” meeting was the last but one of a series of meetings put on by the South London Health Trust as part of their so-called public consultation programme on Kershaw’s proposals. Significantly, it was held on the 55th anniversary of the Lewisham train crash in which over 90 people died. On that fateful day the close proximity of Lewisham Hospital prevented the death toll from being much higher. The meeting was preceded by a very spirited demonstration outside the hall with people shouting slogans: “Save Lewisham Hospital!”, “Save the NHS!”.
In his opening statement at the meeting, Kershaw tried to justify his plans making out that “saving money” was “the serious issue” and that the South London trust cannot go on “losing £1 million a week”. He tried to make out that this continuing debt will have an adverse effect on “clinical quality” and “the ability of the local NHS to work”. This drew a very angry response from the hundreds of health and local people attending at his derogatory comments. The hard work and commitment of the medical staff at Lewisham Hospital, a hospital which has been highly praised for its recent record in health care, is known to all. Even more they were outraged at Kershaw’s plans for Lewisham because they are part and parcel of the government’s agenda to put the interests of the big financiers over and above the health care needs of the people of South London and elsewhere.
After the opening statements the organisers attempted to show the “TSA Consultation video”, a slick PR film purporting to explain why the re-organisation was necessary and the “tough decisions” that had to be implemented because of the £207 million debt. But such was the anger of the audience that they had stop their film and the meeting ended with another militant demonstration outside.
On January 10, an enthusiastic and militant protest took place at Goldsmiths College, south London, where BBC’s Question Time was taking place. Many local people and organisations including Goldsmiths students, Save Lewisham Hospital activists and the local branch of Unison participated, shouting slogans such as “Save Lewisham Hospital, Save the NHS!” At the end of the protest, a spokesperson from the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign called on everyone to amass support for the January 26 March and Rally. Other actions have included touring neighbouring areas, including Bromley, Bexleyheath, Sidcup and Welling in the Save Our Hospital bus together with street stalls with people queuing up to sign the petition. Over 900 were collected one Saturday in Lewisham alone and a further 700 at Charlton Athletic Football club. At the time of writing, over 40,000 have signed the on-line petition.
The demonstration on January 26 is very crucial and comes just before Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is due to announce on February 4 his final decision regarding Kershaw’s proposals. There is a real determination by everyone involved that a victory for Lewisham Hospital will be a victory for all of South London health care and for everyone fighting to safeguard the future of the NHS. It is a struggle to uphold the principle of a modern civilised society that health care for all is a right which cannot be taken away. A victory to save Lewisham Hospital would be a tremendous victory for the defence of the NHS and people’s healthcare throughout the country.
The mass-based campaign to Save the A&E and Maternity at Lewisham Hospital appears as a crucial battle in the movement against the wrecking of the National Health Service and in defence of the public good and public services.
It is a battle that the people of Lewisham, together with the health staff and their unions, health professionals and GPs, community organisations, and the Save Lewisham Hospital Workers’ Group, are determined to do their utmost to win. It is a battle which has a significance for the whole of England in determining that when the people say No to the dismantling of the NHS they mean No!
Under threat at Lewisham is the A&E Department, Intensive Care and some children and maternity services. If these go then the whole hospital is threatened with closure.
The background to the threat to Lewisham Hospital is that last July, Andrew Lansley, the then Health Secretary, appointed a Trust Special Administrator to take over South London Healthcare Trust. He was appointed under the “Regime for Unsustainable NHS Providers” to deal with the alleged £150 million debt which the Trust was said to have run up. The very name is redolent of the outlook of those in power for whom investing in the people’s health care comes a poor second to ensuring a healthy bottom line for the financers.
Two things should also be noted. Firstly, this “Regime” was set up by the previous government under the 2009 Health Act. And secondly, Lewisham Hospital is not itself part of the South London Healthcare Trust, which was formed on April 1, 2009, by a merger of the three hospital trusts of Queen Mary's Sidcup NHS Trust, Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Trust and Bromley Hospitals NHS Trust. But not only did the trust administrator, Matthew Kershaw, recommend in his report, published in January 8, that the SLHT be dissolved. His report recommends that Lewisham Hospital close its A&E together with the children’s wards, critical care, emergency and complex surgery units, and perhaps the maternity services. As the website of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign explains: “He then wants to sell off Lewisham Hospital’s empty buildings for £17million, only £5million less than this year’s A&E refurbishment.”
The website goes on to say: “The administrator believes closing Lewisham A&E will force patients through the doors of the heavily indebted Queen Elizabeth Hospital, thus increasing its income. However, this trick has already been performed once, when Queen Mary’s Sidcup A&E was closed two years ago, and currently up to 1 in 5 patients wait over four hours for treatment in Queen Elizabeth A&E. It will overwhelm the indebted Queen Elizabeth Hospital, at a time when the administrator also recommends it makes £100million of further cuts.”
The explanation continues: “If the newly-refurbished Lewisham A&E closes, the boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley (population 750,000) will have one accident and emergency to share. Lewisham has the lowest male life expectancy in London. This is not a ‘difficult decision’ that the government is making, it is a ‘deadly decision’.
“South London Healthcare has inherited immense debts caused by political mismanagement – unaffordable bank loans were taken out at the same time rules were introduced to ban the NHS distributing money from profitable areas to those that were in need. So, despite excellent rates of infection and low mortality, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Queen Mary’s, Sidcup, Princess Royal, Farnborough and Orpington Hospital were deemed failures.
“The NHS is now structured so that individual trusts cannot receive surplus money from other areas, but when it comes to savage cuts, the opposite applies. The government is using semantic arguments about why £4billion pounds of NHS cash reserves can’t be used and why Lewisham A&E should close. The fact is, if you have a road accident on the South Circular, Jeremy Hunt is happy to risk that you could die on your way to hospital so that he can repay the banks without using NHS reserves. Indeed, the Treasury has taken back £1billion from the NHS, punishing it for savings made in the last few years.
“The recommendation to close Lewisham A&E is part of an ideological assault on the NHS. The administrator’s plans to make cuts and close local competitors is designed to make South London’s services more attractive to private healthcare. Although some NHS Trusts have expressed an interest in running South London’s services, so have many private companies. The tendering process will be overseen by Jeremy Hunt, not the administrator. It is likely to be focussed on cost and servicing the debt, rather than quality. So although headlines are focussed on local trusts, private health companies are at an advantage when they compete on cost, because they don't bear the costs of A&E’s, intensive care, or training medical professionals.”
This fight is one to reverse the direction in which the government is taking the NHS. It is a fight to safeguard the right to health care.
No Means No!
The Wrecking of the NHS Cannot Be Accepted! Defend the Right to Health Care!
Our NHS! Our Future!
A number of socials are being organised at the initiative of RCPB(ML) to set the direction for 2013.
Already, socials have been organised in London and the Southern region of the Party, as well as in the Northern region.
At the London social on December 29, hosted by the John Buckle Centre Collective, Michael Chant, on behalf of the Central Committee of RCPB(ML), gave a toast. He pointed out some of the fronts of struggle in 2012, and the fronts in which the Party had been consolidated.
He said that the Party is is convinced that 2013 will be a very significant year for the advance of the people's movement. “It is a time when the anti-social offensive is really being stepped up. The Cameron-Clegg government is going all out with its so-called ‘austerity programme’ to attack the people’s well-being, to attack public services and to deny any responsibility of society for the wellbeing of its members,” he said. On the other hand, it is in the consciousness of the working class and people’s movements that there is an alternative.
Michael Chant concluded, “We live in one world in which there is a struggle going on between two outlooks: the outlook of the capitalists and the outlook of the working class – which is the human-centred outlook. In this coming year, this fight to affirm the rights of the people we are sure will take centre stage. One of the most important rights in this respect is the right of the people to be involved in making all of the decisions which control their lives and as everyone involved in the struggle knows, this is one of the major things that is denied the people: to have any say in the decisions which affect their lives. This goes on in every level of society: from the workplace to public services and crucially people are denied the right to take decisions on what direction the country is taking, what direction the economy is taking and what direction society is taking. So it is to this new direction that I would like to raise a toast as we set our tasks for 2013. For a new direction for society!”
This is the message which RCPB(ML) is also taking to Scotland, to Wales, to the South-West of England, and to the Midlands in this period.
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