Threat of occupation
MP backs fight to save Ealing maternity unit
JOHN McDonnell is backing hardline anticuts protesters who are planning an ‘occupation’ of Ealing Hospital.
The Hayes & Harlington Labour MP pledged his support to The West London Council of Action which is fiercely opposed to NHS plans to close the maternity unit at the hospital.
At a meeting on Tuesday last week attended by Mr McDonnell the campaigners outlined plans to march on the hospital today (June 24) and occupy the maternity wing ‘for as long as it takes’ until the Government backs down.
Speaking at the meeting Mr McDonnell said: “The community up until now have been superb. We have argued and protested and it has not worked.
“If occupation is the only way we can protect our services then so be it.
“If people are willing to stand up, occupy and take direct action we should offer them support and solidarity. That’s why I’m here to offer solidarity in the coming months.”
The council of action is a branch of The Workers Revolutionary Party in Ealing, and members say their fight to save maternity service has “gone beyond protests and petitions” to the point where physical action is required.
Spokesman Davie Wiltshire told the Gazette’s sister paper in Ealing: “They [the Government] are not hanging around and they are not going to be persuaded by marches- we have gone through that.
“It’s a real attack on the community and quite frankly, the time for talking has finished.”
He argued that an occupation of the hospital would not be illegal as long as protesters did not interfere with services.
He added: “We are in for a fight for as long as it takes to win, no matter how long. We will organise rotas 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year if it takes that long, but we do not think it will.
“The struggle to defend Ealing Hospital has too many friends.”
Scott Dore from the Workers Revolutionary Party, added: “When they announced dates for closure, did they consider the position women are going to be in? Do they expect them to give birth in the street or at home?
“We are not going to accept this closure, we are going to stay there until the maternity unit is kept open.”
The closure has been proposed as part of a restructure of west London NHS services under the Shaping a Healthier Future programme.
A spokeswoman for the NHS acknowledged campaigners’ right to peaceful protest but warned that any occupation of Ealing Hospital would be “dangerous and unfair” for patients and staff.
She said antenatal and postnatal care will still be provided in Ealing borough, but maternity would be consolidated to six hospitals in North West London with greater access to senior consultants and more midwives.
Protesters were due to begin their march at 11am today.
n SUPPORT: Hayes and Harlington MP John McDonnell speaking at a meeting of the West London Council of Action