Mazdoor Ekta Lehar has just received the news that on June 24, 2015, working people from Ealing, Southhall, and other nearby areas of London are vigorously protesting the move by the British Government to close the maternity wing of the state funded hospital at Ealing. This hospital is part of the National Health Service (NHS) network of hospitals where working people get state funded health care. The NHS came into being as a result of the struggles of the British working class post World War II.
When the first batch of protesters entered the hospital, they were met with a hostile police force which threatened immediate arrest. Ignoring these threats, a large contingent of women protesters marched in, and began their indefinite sit-in in the hospital. They vowed that they will not end the protest until the government acceded to the people’s demands. The police were forced to beat a retreat in the face of this militant stand.
Earlier, at the call of the West London Council of Action and the Indian Workers Association, people gathered at Barrisford Road, Southhall (near Miripiri Gurudwara) to join the march. The Indian Workers Association had carried out extensive propaganda in the local community, amongst various progressive organisations,as well as in the gurudwaras, mandirs and masjids, explaining the need for taking this step and calling upon the working class and people to not take this attack on their rights lying down but protest and defend their rights. As the demonstration marched towards Ealing Hospital, they were enthusiastically cheered on by many people.
On reaching Ealing hospital, a rally was held which was addressed by Tony McCvey of West London Council of Action and Salvinder Dhillon and Dalvinder of Indian Workers Association. The speakers pointed out that the NHS is the property of British people who paid for its establishment. The government of the capitalist class is running down this service deliberately. Starting with maternity ward of Ealing hospital, the next in the list is children’s ward. This will be followed by the Accident and Emergency ward and ultimately all of it will be closed down. The land then will be sold to the developers.
They pointed out that the closing down of the Accident and Emergency department has been put on hold at the present because of massive opposition to it and now the management has suddenly announced the closure of maternity ward. This can also be saved by the determined action of the people.
90 year old ex-president of Indian Workers Association, Ajit Singh Rai came to Ealing hospital to lend his support to the struggle of the people. He related his experience in saving the Hillingdon Hospital and said the united struggle of people can also save the Ealing hospital.
Comrade Salvinder, one of the leaders of Indian Workers Association, was interviewed by a radio station during the protest from inside the hospital. Explaining the reasons for the protest, he pointed out that for months, people have been fighting against the down sizing of health care services. Ealing Hospital served a huge, densely populated area. The government had announced that it would close the maternity ward of the hospital from July 1, 2015. If this were done, it would greatly inconvenience the families in the area, as they would have to go to far away hospitals for delivery, he said. The government has turned a deaf ear to many requests, petitions and demonstrations that the people had organised. Hence people had to fight to save it.
John Mccdonald, MP from Hayes, joined in the sit-in. The MP extended his support for the action and declared that people in his constituency of Hayes had also been forced to resort to protest at another local hospital, in order to save it.
Comrade Dalvinder another leader of the struggle pointed out that there was nothing unlawful about the sit-in. People had every right to defend the National Health Service and oppose its down sizing by the government. He pointed out that the National Health Service, as well as other social services, were not a gift of the British bourgeoisie, or a privilege. The health service as well as other social services were rights won by the working class in the course of militant struggle, at the end of the Second World War. At that time, the workers of Britiain, were inspired by the achievements of socialism in Soviet Union. Now, the bourgeoisie is attacking all these hard won rights, in the name of “austerity”. He supported the workers of the Hospital in the struggle to defend their rights, and against the dismantling of health and social services.
Speaking to MEL, a representative of the Indian Workers Association said that there is tremendous enthusiasm amongst people in the area at the succesful begining of the action. Activists of the Indian Workers Association are using all means at their disposal to spread the message among the people to participate in the protest, as well as extend support in various ways. He pointed out the protest was a unanimous decision taken at a public meeting called by West London Council of Action in Ealing on June 17, 2015. At that meeting, speaker after speaker declared that it was both their right as well as duty to prevent the closure of the maternity ward of Ealing Hospital. The Indian Workers Association had actively participated in the meeting and declared its determination to mobilise the masses of workers and people in this just struggle.