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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 March 2007

No divide and rule - save these hospitals

SOCIALIST PARTY members have been campaigning in Rhondda Cynon Taff and Merthyr against hospital cuts. Health bosses in North Glamorgan are considering serious cutbacks at Royal Glamorgan and Prince Charles hospitals.

Dave Reid

They call cuts "downgrading" of the hospitals just as factory closures were called "downsizing". The bosses claim services will be more efficiently provided if concentrated in one place rather than spread over two sites.

But the real motive for the cutbacks is to save money at the expense of services. The end result will be fewer beds and less facilities than those they replace. And people in the Glamorgan valleys would have long distances to travel to access these services. One Accident and Emergency (A&E) department would be likely to close which would mean long ambulance travel across the valleys for people in life-threatening situations.

Both hospitals are already straining to cope with the huge demands they are coming under. Royal Glamorgan has been bursting at the seams as ambulances queue up outside A&E and patients wait for beds to become available. Prince Charles desperately needs modernisation. As one person signing our petition pointed out: "These hospitals need upgrading not downgrading".

Opportunistically Labour Assembly Members (AMs) opposed cutbacks to their constituency hospitals. But these cuts are the effect of the Labour Assembly's hospital policy ie closing local hospitals and centralising services in a few super-hospitals.

All Labour AMs voted for this strategy. So it is hypocrisy for them to vote for cutbacks in the Assembly, then launch a petition to oppose these cuts' effects on their local hospital.

"We oppose the closure of wards at both Royal Glamorgan and Prince Charles" said one of the campaign organisers. "We will all lose out as patients travel across the valleys putting even more pressure on under-resourced facilities".

The cuts can be stopped. The proposals will have to go out to consultation but if the huge support for our petition is reflected in mass turnouts at the consultation meetings, it will force the Community Health Councils to oppose the cuts.

lDave Reid is the Socialist Alternative Defend the Health Service South Wales Central candidate for the Welsh Assembly.

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