Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/319/9709
Save Our Health Service
THIS SATURDAY, 18 October, Neath and Port Talbot will be marching to defend the maternity unit at the new hospital in Baglan. We have less than eight weeks to defeat the proposals, which will downgrade it from a full service to either a midwife-led unit or none at all.
Rob Williams, 'Defend Baglan Maternity Campaign' and Socialist Party Wales
This will lead to complicated births being transferred to Singleton in Swansea or Bridgend. We think lives could be put in danger.
The hospital, built under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), is less than a year old, yet that year has seen one crisis after another! Due to its scaled-down services, the medical authorities already treat Baglan as a second-class hospital.
Anyone in Neath or Port Talbot who needs an ambulance is taken to Morriston Casualty... even if the accident is in the shadow of Baglan! As long as you can afford the £20 taxi fare, you may get back home. There has been talk of cracks in the stairwells while plaster casts have run out.
To the Socialist Party, these events are not unrelated. We were part of the 1990's campaign for a full-service replacement for the old Neath Hospital. Without that campaign, it's questionable if Baglan would have been built.
But we warned that New Labour's PFI scheme would seriously threaten local health services in the long run. The surprise is that it's happened so quickly! PFI carries on Tory privatisation but on a bigger scale.
The moneymen are paid back over a twenty-year period for their investment. In our case, a £66 million hospital could ultimately cost over £300 million! Even contractors admit that they treble at least their profits in PFI schemes because of the 'risk factor'.
But it's ordinary people who take the risk when services are threatened or downgraded. Meanwhile, costs are ruthlessly kept to a minimum. Already, porters for contractors OCS have been threatening industrial action because of understaffing.
Trust managers blame the possible downgrading on their failure to attract doctors and anaesthetists. The maternity unit has been closed during the year. But doctors at the unit claim this is because staff are being sent to cover at maternity units at Singleton and Bridgend.
Any downgrading would increase pressure at these units. Already we have seen Casualty services being rationalised locally by the downgrading of Llanelli from a 24-hour service.
This demonstration will send a message to local people that we can fight these cuts. The Local Health Board has started a public consultation which will include public meetings in November. Two have been organised, one in each town.
You can ask for a local meeting by phoning them on (01792) 326506. Those meetings have to be huge to halt the plans. 'Defend Baglan Maternity Campaign' is linking health workers and local residents to stop the downgrading and protect our health service.
Meet at Civic Centre, Port Talbot 12 noon, Saturday 18 October for march to Baglan Hospital.
In The Socialist 18 October 2003:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
War and occupation
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis