Outside Salford Royal Hospital yesterday a `Keep Our NHS Public' leafleting and petition signing protest took place with trade unionists, activists and hospital staff urging public support for the fight against the cuts in the NHS.
Parliamentary candidates hoping to land Hazel Blears' seat took the opportunity to lambast NHS bosses, following the Salford Star story last week about the July closure of the women only Eric Rawlings Ward. After hearing confirmation of the story from front line staff at the hospital, Lib Dem candidate, Norman Owen, spoke out against NHS bosses imposing the cuts.
"I knew a few months ago that a figure of 15% cuts across the board had been rumoured but I didn't realise the amount of jobs that are going to go until it was publicised" he said "What I'm concerned about is the way that staff have been treated, only to be told on Wednesday morning that one of the units is closing is disgraceful. There was no argument, that's it. People who are managing this hospital should be questioned about their judgement.
"NHS management should be truthful with their employees" he added "The trade unions, who represent these people, should be in there battling the cuts, but from what I've heard today they should be doing more. If you want to change this country's politics with fair and justified trade unionism this is the place you should be starting – to save the NHS."
Councillor Owen then slated Hazel Blears for not joining the protest…
"The absence of the MP for this city, Hazel Blears, is very noticeable today, and she lives on the doorstep of the hospital" he said "The lady has a lot to answer for to the people of this city, for the expenses scandal and the maternity unit here at Salford Royal, and the position of the employees here who are going to lose their jobs. I think it's a disgrace what's happening and she should hang her head in shame."
His sentiments were echoed by Hazel Must Go candidate, David Henry, who said "It's a bit disappointing, Hazel only lives across the road but she's probably out canvassing - for her, winning the election is obviously more important than saving the hospital."
He added that the intended closure of the Eric Rawlings Ward was "appalling - it's a women's ward so there's the whole issue about mixed sex wards and safety" he said "Women have actually been attacked in mixed sex wards all over the country and I can't see why they'd want to sacrifice this. The management are now denying it but we all know that in the past these stories have been true and it's just damage limitation.
"So many people rely on this hospital, it's got a great reputation, the staff work really hard and I can't believe why anyone would want to cut front line services" he added "It's beyond belief".
During the protest, leaflets were distributed calling for a halt to cuts in the NHS and many visitors to the hospital signed petitions. The campaign is set to continue as more cuts become apparent both in the NHS and at Salford Royal Hospital.
Photo by Albert Spiby
Update: 26th April 2010 5pm
The Salford Royal; Hospital has just issued this statement...
"The Trust is currently undergoing a £200 million redevelopment programme and part of this programme is to refurbish a number of wards within the hospital.
"As part of the extensive redevelopment programme the Eric Rawlings ward is due to be refurbished and during this time some services will be relocated to other appropriate wards within the hospital; the provision of high quality patient care or the services offered will not be affected.
David Dalton, Chief Executive at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust said:
“We are absolutely committed to providing the women of Salford with high quality care now and in the future. Over the next few months, the location within the hospital of where patients receive treatment may be different. The nursing and medical teams will still be here to provide them with the best treatment and care possible.”
Salford Royal is committed to providing high quality gynaecology, early pregnancy and breast care services for women. Gynaecological Services will move into the new Hope Building which will have state of the art facilities that will enhance the treatment and care for patients. Longer term plans for the Eric Rawlings Ward is to turn it into a specialist cancer ward which will be adjacent to new building for The Christie at Salford."