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Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign:
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :
Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign:
All Out for the January 26 Demonstration! Time for a New Direction for the NHS!
No to Britain’s Intervention in Mali
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Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign:
Building on the massive success of the November demonstration, in which over 10,000 people marched, the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign is mobilising for another mass demonstration next Saturday, January 26.
WWIE calls on all who can, not just the residents and workers of the Lewisham borough, to turn out and give this demonstration full support. The fight to save Lewisham is a crucial battle in the fight for the future direction of the National Health Service. It is also crucial in the fight to demand that the government stop intervening in the NHS to make sure that private monopoly interests hold sway. And further, it is crucial in the battle to defend the principle that health care is a right, which must be recognised and guaranteed, and which must come before monopoly right in the operation of the NHS.
All in all, it is certain that a victory for the campaign to save Lewisham Hospital would be a victory for all who are struggling against the health service being destroyed and turned into a source of profit for the health monopolies and other private interests.
The battle is being fought with the spirit that the people can and must win victory. Even if Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt flies in the face of the will of the people and the health workers and professionals involved, and accepts the report of Trust Special Administrator Matthew Kershaw, it is certain that the fight will not end there. The January 26 demonstration will be a stepping stone to developing the mass movement of the resistance to the wrecking of the health service. Already a demonstration is planned on February 9 involving the south London boroughs affected by the Kershaw report, shortly after Jeremy Hunt delivers his verdict on February 4. This demonstration will give the people’s verdict on Hunt.
The campaign has released the spontaneous initiative of a whole community, including the health workers and professionals who are under attack with the intensification of their workloads and the threat of losing their livelihoods. The excellent Save Lewisham Hospital website [http://www.savelewishamhospital.com] lists many ways to get involved. Among the multitude of activities and actions was the mums, dads and buggies protest outside Department of Health on January 22. The protest demanded in song: “We want to meet you Jeremy we do” and “Save Lewisham Hospital! Save the NHS!”.
Even the Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust gave the following response to the so-called “consultation” process and report of the Trust Special Administrator (TSA): “We have major concerns about the TSA process which we understand to be unprecedented in its scale, complexity and condensed timescale. We are concerned about the perceived lack of transparency. We have experienced persistent issues around the timely availability of relevant data and supporting analyses to underpin the TSA’s recommendations. We have, as a result, not been able to perform a meaningful review or validation of the financial information included within the TSA’s draft report.”
The use of the alleged financial failings of the South London Healthcare Trust is a fraud. There is no reason debt caused by the PFI (Private Finance Initiative) building under New Labour cannot either be renegotiated or written off altogether when the future of healthcare is at stake. Such a move would not be unprecedented.
In the debate on the South London Healthcare NHS Trust in the House of Commons on January 8, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt ended by saying: “We wanted to avoid what had happened so often, including in my own constituency—an alliance of Health Ministers and NHS managers riding roughshod over what local people wanted.” If Hunt were serious, he could only come to one conclusion. If he elects to accept and implement the TSA report and recommendations, it is not only confirmation of his hypocrisy, but confirms that executive decision-making overrules the people’s interests and demands. It would confirm that what is required is for the people to have the power to make the decisions on the vital issues which affect their lives and well-being.
The health workers and professionals, and the people as a whole, are not only capable of making these decisions but in fact it is an imperative that they do so. The direction of the NHS, in the context of the direction of society, must be changed to one which serves the people’s interests and not the narrow interests of the monopolies. The wrecking of the NHS must be ended! No means No!
Health Care Is a Right!
A Victory for Lewisham Hospital Is a Victory for Everyone!
Time for a New Direction for the NHS!
All Out for the January 26 Demonstration!
Visit the Save Lewisham Hospital
As thousands of health workers in South London and the community of Lewisham hospital go into action next weekend to save their A&E and indeed their hospital, as well as health services across all of south London, health workers all over Britain are building their resistance against the anti-social offensive in the NHS.
Particularly in England, every hospital and community health service is facing massive cuts to their funding, with constant decommissioning of their services and the increasing inroads of privatised employers being introduced, cutting wages and worsening conditions of work.
At this time, hospitals up and down the country are full to breaking point as result of the cuts in beds, and community services. Many hospitals and community services have had to open emergency wards for which they are not fully funded sending them further into financial crisis as well as facing cuts in community services which could have relieved some of the pressure. Medical staff, and the whole medical team, along with support staff and most managers, are working beyond their call of duty to ensure that patients’ needs are met whilst themselves suffering ongoing, increased work pressure, constant reorganisation, redundancies, outsourcing of health services and almost daily abuse from the Coalition government and in the monopoly-controlled media. This abuse of alleged failings in the performance of hospitals, of nurses and doctors and support staff is carried out whilst the government cuts the budgets of hospitals and health services year by year by massive amounts in so-called “efficiency savings”. As a result, the government, hiding its hand in this, is increasingly able to declare hospitals “in debt”, or “bankrupt”, and then hand over billions of pounds in “savings” from these cuts in health care budgets to the financial oligarchy both in the city, indirectly in handouts, and also in directly paying city firms millions to “performance manage” hospital trusts. This is all at the expense of providing for the needs of all for health care and ensuring a stable health economy where the government takes responsibility to meet those needs as a first priority.
Instead, we have the anarchy of a pay the rich system and its “health market” being introduced at break-neck speed on the back of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. This Act changed the responsibility of the government's secretary for state for health from one of providing a comprehensive and universal health care system to one of promoting such a service. The abrogation of this responsibility is merely the continued direction of the ruling elite to end the overall responsibility of government on behalf of society to provide for the health needs of all and to not only pay the rich but also increasingly make the people pay for their health care. It is a reflection of the fact that the ruling elite never accepted, at any time, a modern direction for society which would be putting more into the economy than is taken out and organising a society for the benefit of its members and that guarantees their rights to a livelihood, to health care, housing and the rights of all. The direction the ruling elite is taking society is the opposite of such a modern direction. It is a programme of paying the financial oligarchy and imposing austerity to service their interests.
What has to be recognised, and what is revealed by the present situation is that it is the health staff themselves, their union organisations, their communities and their own political representatives, who are the guardians of the standards of care and advocates for patients and health services. Keeping the initiative in their own hands, it is the people who have launched struggles up and down the country to safeguard the right of all to health care.
The challenge health workers face is to recognise that it is building this force for good, building their own resistance and organisation and strengthening the quality and number of health worker politicians to intervene in the political process that is the only way that the present situation can be turned around in favour of the working class people. Building this resistance and organisation is key to this alternative agenda so that it is placed centre stage in the political life of the country and creates the conditions for democratic renewal that recognises the right of the people in their communities to become the decision-makers.
1 – Unsafe – Lewisham is bigger than the cities of Brighton or Hull, as are Greenwich and Bexley. Three boroughs with a population of 750,00 cannot be expected to have only 1 admitting hospital. And without an A&E, maternity services at Lewisham may be closed for safety reasons when the report is finalised, but the administrator refuses to acknowledge this. He will have taken a new job by the time this plan could cost us our Maternity Unit.
2 – Neighbouring hospitals have not got the capacity to deal with Lewisham Hospital closing maternity services or an Accident and Emergency that can admit patients. We are in the middle of a ‘baby boom’ and up to 1 in 5 patients waited longer than 4 hours at Queen Elizabeth Hospital A&E.
Yet the administrator has suggested £39million of staff cuts. By forcing two large employers to merge (Lewisham Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital), he is increasing the size of the ‘employer unit’ to make it easier to get rid of staff.
3 - PFI debts – £210million of buildings at QEH and PRUH will cost the taxpayer £2.5 billion. The Special administrator refused to renegotiate this debt, and it will still be paid out of your taxes by the Department of Health. Lewisham is paying for another trust’s debt with our A&E, maternity services, children’s ward, acute surgery and 60 % of our hospital buildings- which the administrator wants to sell for £17million and use the money to pay off debts, not to invest in community services. The people of Greenwich and Bexley should not have to pay with the loss of essential services either. Hospitals are not profit-centres and should not be closed down as if they are supermarkets.
4 – Travel – Hospital transport on discharge is rare. If you live in Downham and have to visit patients or travel home from hospital, you will be at least 2 buses and 1 hour away from your nearest admitting hospital
5 – Broken promises from the coalition:
“We will stop the forced closure of A&E and maternity wards, so that people have better access to local services, and give mothers a real choice over where to have their baby, with NHS funding following their decisions.” Conservative Party Manifesto 2010, page 47.
“We believe that care would improve if local people had more control over how their health services were run… Local services – especially maternity wards and accident and emergency departments – keep being closed, even though local people desperately want them to stay open.” Liberal Democrat manifesto 2010 page 42
On January 14, the government announced that it was contributing “logistical military assistance” for the recent armed intervention launched by France in the West African country of Mali.
It has subsequently become clear that this support was offered rapidly and with enthusiasm rather than being requested by the French government. The government of France, for its part, claimed that it had received a request for assistance from the government of Mali. According to Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds, the situation in Mali, in which a civil war has been raging throughout the last year, “is a serious concern for the UK”. He maintained that “it would not be in our interests to allow a terrorist haven to develop in Northern Mali. As a responsible member of the Security Council, we must support the region in limiting the danger of instability in that part of Africa, threatening UK interests.” Other NATO members including Canada, Germany, Belgium, Denmark and the US have also pledged various forms of military support for France, whose actions have been approved by the UN.
It might be asked what interests the British government could have in Mali, a former French colony and one of the poorest countries in the world? Historically Mali has been beset by severe economic and political problems, many of them a consequence of the legacy it has inherited from French colonial rule, as well as those created by the bi-polar division of the world and exacerbated by neo-liberal globalisation. There have been several rebellions against the central government in recent years but the country has become much more unstable as a result of NATO intervention in Libya and the subsequent regime change in that country. In the past year the northern part of Mali has fallen under the control of a diverse coalition of armed groups, including those with legitimate demands that have declared the territory “independent” on behalf of the Tourareg, and other marginalized people, as well as those that have been designated “terrorist’ by the big powers, such as the self-styled Al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). As has been pointed out by many commentators, the AQIM has strong connections with those who have been supported by Britain and NATO to effect regime change in Libya.
The unstable situation in Mali, including a temporary military coup, drought and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people has been discussed by the UN for several months and culminated in three separate Security Council resolutions, the most recent adopted in December 2012. The UN Security Council dominated by the big powers declared that the situation in Mali constituted “a threat to international peace and security”, and therefore proposed military intervention. The last UN Security Council resolution (UNSC 2085) specifically authorised the deployment not of French troops but of an African-led stabilisation force, the International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), tasked with “recovering the areas in the north under the control of terrorist, extremist and armed groups and in reducing the threat posed by terrorist groups”. Efforts to bring stability to Mali had, until recently, been mainly in the hands of regional bodies and countries including the members of the African Union (AU) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Although they had not been successful, prior to French intervention, peace talks between the government of Mali and rebel forces were scheduled for 21 January 2013.
In recent days the unstable situation in Mali and throughout the region, as well as previous and current external intervention by the big powers, have created the conditions for further instability and according to reports the loss of many lives at the Tigantourine gas facility in eastern Algeria. Indeed some commentators were predicting that NATO-led intervention in Mali was merely a prelude to intervention in Algeria. It is reported that the supporters of AQIM have also been involved in the events in eastern Algeria and a pretext has been created for further foreign intervention throughout the region. The President of France was quick to claim that the events in Algeria provided further justification for the intervention in Mali, while there was enthusiastic support for the government's action in Parliament and a general consensus that further intervention might well be necessary throughout the Sahara-Sahel region, which one leading politician referred to as the "soft underbelly" of Europe.
Although France is leading the current military intervention in Mali, the British government has been preparing for possible intervention for some months and last September even appointed a Special Representative for the Sahel. Much is being made of the need to bring stability to “fragile states”, counter "terrorism" and re-establish democracy but in fact Britain and the other big powers have designs on the entire Sahel region stretching throughout North and West Africa which is rich in oil, gas and mineral reserves. It is a region has its own strategic importance in the new scramble for Africa between the big powers, which has already been so evident in the conflicts in Libya, DR Congo and elsewhere. Great efforts are being made to establish a justification for further intervention in Africa under the auspices of the UN. There should therefore be no illusions about what a new "war against terror" nor “humanitarian intervention” in Mali or elsewhere in the region means. In this context, those who pose as the friends of Africa have demonstrated time and again that they are its greatest enemies.
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