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Campaign saves Swansea hospital unit
HEALTH CAMPAIGNERS have won a major victory by ensuring that Morriston Hospital's neurosurgery unit remains in Swansea for the indefinite future. The local South Wales Evening Post called the decision by Wales Assembly health minister, Labour's Edwina Hart, a complete victory for "people power".
Steve Kerry Swansea
A week before May's Assembly elections, the broad campaign to defend the NHS in Swansea (initiated by local Socialist Party members) organised a demonstration of nearly 1,000. This helped keep the pressure on politicians of all parties. Candidates tried to outbid each other to prove they wanted to save the area's NHS services and keep Morriston's neurosurgery unit open.
The Morriston campaign has been underway for over four years since a report on the future of health service provision in Wales was published. Health Commission Wales (HCW) was due to decide on the unit's future by the end of July.
The report's plan entailed patients in South West Wales travelling to Cardiff or possibly even Bristol - over 100 miles in some cases - for neurosurgery treatment. In cases requiring emergency neuro-surgery, this could have meant the difference between life and death.
The huge anger this caused forced all parties to pay lip service to maintaining current NHS services in the area. This depth of feeling in the Welsh Assembly elections and the uncertain political alignments afterwards brought about this huge U-turn.
BEFORE THE Assembly election New Labour would give no unequivocal commitment to keep the neurosurgery unit in Swansea open or to keep Fairwood Hospital and a ward at Hill House Hospital open.
However, after Labour's hammering in this election, the Wales Labour leaders were forced to rethink some of their plans.
A key issue was the future of Morriston's neurosurgery unit.
With a deadline approaching for deciding on the unit's future health minister Edwina Hart first said the decision would be postponed.
Then within 24 hours she climbed down further. She said there would now be no attempt to close it down - possibly as part of a deal in securing a coalition agreement with Plaid Cymru.
This is a tremendous victory, in no small part down to the Socialist Party's campaigning. However, the fight is not over.
The threat of closure and cuts still hangs over many NHS services in Wales.
Local NHS bosses warned that that the price of securing a victory at Morriston could be cuts in the NHS elsewhere.
There will be more battles on the NHS in Wales but the Morriston victory shows that a mass campaign can force politicians to climb down from their plans to 'rationalise' and cut NHS services.
In The Socialist 12 July 2007:
National Shop Stewards Network
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Tales from the council chambers
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party events
Socialist Party review
International socialist news and analysis