Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/325/9435
Baglan hospital: Stop The Health Cuts
"PEOPLE IN Neath and Port Talbot will just have to get used to a reconfiguration of the health service." That's how the big-wigs in the Local Health Board (LHB) and the Trust see the future for the NHS. For 'reconfiguration' read second-class health service for working-class people while the rich can go private.
The battle to stop the downgrading of the maternity unit at Baglan Hospital is at a crucial stage. After two public consultation meetings - at Neath and Port Talbot - the LHB will announce its preferred option on 22 December. However, in the meetings there seemed to be only two options - either a midwife-led unit or nothing! This would see all births delivered in Bridgend and Swansea.
The Trust and the LHB are using 'divide and rule' tactics by making our campaign to maintain a consultant-led unit seem as if we are questioning midwives' professionalism. But this is a red herring to justify a cutback.
We are campaigning to ensure that midwives have more resources to complement their skills while the Trust will just expose them to greater risks. Will the change mean more or less resources? If it is less we have to fight it.
Any downgrading of services at the hospital will put a question mark over its long-term viability. Two weeks ago the casualty lost a covering doctor at night to be replaced by a nurses-led service. Immediately, an average of four extra patients a night are now forced down to the A&E in Morriston Hospital, Swansea.
This and the ending of 24-hour casualty in Llanelli is starting to have a dramatic effect at Morriston with reports of patients having to wait in ambulances because of the numbers waiting to be treated. This shows that the fight to keep a full maternity unit in Baglan will also benefit families and workers in Bridgend and Swansea.
All this is happening in a £66 million PFI hospital celebrating its first birthday! The Trust and the LHB say that privatisation or lack of cash aren't to blame but a shortage of doctors. But even if this was true - why should we pay the price for the lack of investment in training staff?
An NHS run by a New Labour government in thrall to the private sector will never have enough resources to meet society's needs. Foundation hospitals are like grammar schools in the past - rationing out health care and trained staff.
A socialist programme for the health service would start by asking 'what is needed'. The number of trained doctors could be greatly increased just by getting rid of tuition fees and increasing places at college. By nationalising the pharmaceutical companies, those resources could stay within the NHS rather than lining the pockets of fat cats.
Come on the march in Neath on Saturday 29 November. October's 'Defend Baglan Maternity Unit Campaign' demo in Port Talbot had over 150 people on it and made the Trust take us seriously.
Another big turnout would show them that we are going to fight to the end to stop any downgrade!
"Baby Unit Demo 2". Saturday 29 November. Meet at Gwyn Hall Neath, 12 noon.
In The Socialist 29 November 2003: