Save Ealing Hospital, or Wait for an Ambulance?

999 call reminds Meena Toor of Ealing’s A&E fight


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Walking down King Street in Southall, I came across a mother and her daughter crying. The mother clutched at her stomach and panicked hysterically, while her daughter shouted down the phone ‘I don’t know what to do’.

The mother had been hit by a car and flung to the side of the road.

The mother – too much in pain – and the daughter – too traumatised – never imagined I would cross their path that day. That I would calm them down, take the phone and wave over the ambulance. And I never expected the relief at seeing the familiar yellow ambulance coming our way quickly after.

But I think we were all thankful at the way things turned out.

Our thoughts would have been different, had the ambulance come all the way from Hillingdon Hospital, instead of from nearby local Ealing Hospital.

I’m sure the pain and the risk to the mother would have increased as we waited for help. The fear – felt by all – definitely would have.

So my thoughts turned to the latest ‘Save our hospital’ march on Saturday 18th May against closing Ealing’s A&E department, and whether this closure would help the local community when – out of the blue – you need to call 999.

Thousands gathered under the same worry –trade unions, campaigners and local councillors – for this London-wide demonstration. Among them, Lewisham, Barnet, Islington, Epsom councils were waving banners with Unity, Green Party, BECTU and the National Union of Students.

There was growing concern for the future of the NHS in general. Eve Turner, from Ealing Trades Council campaign, said:

“It's not just [the] threat of closing the hospitals, but they want to sell off all the services to their rich mates.”

The threat of privatisation to the National Health Service would see external private companies buying portions of hospitals – either for services or developments – and may lead to charged services. As one American protester said “I don’t want a doctor saying “Have you paid?” before they operate on you!”

Dr. Onkar Sahota, heading up the Save our Ealing Hospital campaign, believes that the march will have an impact on the next 2015 government elections, calling the march as evidence of people’s discontent:

“This Tory government is out, and these *indicating the marchers* are the marching orders for it.”

Map of Planned Closures

At Whitehall, the march ended with a rally; and the delivery of a letter signed by council leaders, to 10 Downing Street.

Most campaign leaders encouraged continued unity between the different boroughs, calling for more action from individuals, with the aim of a national protest as the next stage. Louisa Venison, head of Lewisham campaign, opened the rally by comparing the different campaigns to an optimum human body:

“The local campaigns are like the heart, and lungs, and blood, and arms and legs. They need to be strong but then they need to come together like this. What we really need is a national demonstration... we need to have some leadership, we need the trade union movement, and we need the Labour party.”

However, Unity Union suggested civil disobedience was a necessary measure, calling the closure of the A&Es as the start of a "Class war":

“These public schools boys without a mandate, these millionaire ministers, they don't speak for us, they have no mandate to do what they're doing.”

Ealing Council is speaking for the residents of Ealing, by pushing forward for an independent review. A source informs Ealing Today that this is set for a date in September.

Together, with further events like the ‘Hunt the Hunt’ protest on June 15th, and planned action on the anniversary of the NHS on July 5 th, there seems to be a lot of action still to come.

Whether this action will translated down the line into having to wait 10 minutes or 30 minutes for an ambulance, is yet to be discovered. All I know is, on that road side, those few minutes felt like an eternity.


Meena Toor

Follow Meena on Twitter @journomeena


May 30, 2013


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