Around 800 people turned out for a public meeting in Lewisham hospital on Thursday evening as the campaign against closures there gets off the ground.
The meeting room was rammed—and so were two overspill rooms. There were crowds crammed in the corridors outside each room and huge numbers of health workers there.
All 30,000 leaflets for a local demonstration on 24 November were snatched up.
The hospital faces losing its A&E, maternity services, children’s wards, emergency surgery and more besides after the government forced the local health trust into administration. It is one of up to 20 hospitals around the country that could soon face this fate.
Yet while threatening closures, the Tories are promising to bail out the private firms whose PFI schemes pushed the trust into the red in the first place.
Anita, a nurse at the hospital, waved the administrators’ report in her hand as she spoke. “It talks about the trust overspending by £65 million,” she said.
“Then a little later it explains how £69 million is spent on the PFI every year! It’s clear to see where the overspend has come from—it’s entirely the PFI.”
The Lewisham meeting showed the potential for a serious fight back against the closures. It was built by health workers at the trust and supported by hospital unions BMA and Unite, with a Unison rep joining the platform.
Local Labour councillors, Lewisham mayor Steve Bullock and local Labour MP Heidi Alexander spoke out against the plans.
Dan works as a nurse in the threatened A&E. He told Socialist Worker, “My biggest fear is that it’ll be the people who have the most life threatening conditions who will be the ones we have to turn away.
“I’d have to say, ‘I’m sorry, you’re too sick for this hospital.’ That disgusts me as a nurse. We need as many people as possible, from the staff and the community, on the march on 24 November. And we’ll be considering other options—maybe a mass ‘die-in’ out in the car park, maybe strikes.”
A midwife added, “Trusts across Britain are in the same situation. This is the first time they’re using this procedure, and it is a model. If we don’t stop them now, they’ll do it across the country.”
Demonstrate—assemble 2pm, Saturday 24 November, Loampit Vale roundabout, London SE13, to march to the hospital