STEPHEN HEPBURN: We must all fight to save our hospital
My pulse is still racing after the big march and rally to save our South Tyneside Hospital last Saturday.
To be with so many hundreds of people prepared to take to the streets in response to the SOS - Save Our Service - is a massive boost to our campaign.
Because it’s our NHS, our hospital and now our people will fight every step of the way to protect what is ours.
I’m more determined than ever to keep every bed, every service and every medical worker after the Tories shut the popular Jarrow Walk In Centre.
South Tyneside Hospital wouldn’t face difficult challenges if the Tories properly funded the NHS.
Go back to 2012 and the children’s ward shut which means young people needing long-term treatment, classified as more than 24 hours, must travel to Sunderland Royal Hospital or Newcastle’s Great North Children’s Hospital.
Four years on and more services are jeopardised in a review which many people see as a takeover dressed up as an “alliance” between Wearside and South Tyneside.
Stroke care for people on South Tyneside is off to Sunderland. Next could be maternity followed by other acute services which in the end could make South Tyneside’s A&E unviable.
And our loss will not be to Sunderland’s gain as South Tyneside patients will have to travel to use already overburdened NHS services on Wearside.
But we will not stand by and watch our local hospital die by a thousand cuts.
You can imagine who is calling the shots when the Chief Executive of City Hospitals Sunderland is now also Chief Executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust.
And the Deputy Chief Executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust who championed changes we oppose is departing into the sunset for a nice new job overseas.
Well, I’m telling Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s bureaucrats now that we’re going nowhere and nor is our hospital.
The NHS is Labour’s proudest achievement and our country’s most cherished public service.
We created a health service free at the point of need and will always resist charging patients.
Labour rescued the NHS from woeful Tory neglect in 1997 and we’ll have to do it again when the Conservative austerity leaves it on a hospital trolley in the corridor.
When I talk to patients from the Boldons and Hebburn and other communities in the Jarrow parliamentary constituency, I hear inspiring stories of fantastic medical care but fears that the NHS is ailing as waiting lists go up and queues lengthen.
We know full well the North East is hit hard by devastating Tory-driven cuts to vital services. People aren’t stupid. They can see what’s really happening here to our local health services. We want a better NHS, not a skeleton pared down to the bone.
I’m heartened people are voicing their concerns about what’s going on at South Tyneside Hospital.
David Cameron once told us the NHS was safe in Tory hands. Theresa May pretends the same. But we know it’s not. Never has been, never will. I guarantee you that whatever the Tories and their placemen and apologists throw at us, I’ll be with all of you all of the way to save our services.
It stops here now. No more cuts. No more treating staff like dirt. And no more ignoring the needs of the very people who use this much-loved service.
We’re made of strong stuff in the North East.
This is not the first time the Tories have tried to launch an attack on our area. It certainly won’t be the last.
But I give you my word that I will work with those who are prepared to join the campaign to save the NHS including our local councillors and trades unions. We know what we are up against.
May’s is a cold, wicked Tory Government every bit as uncaring as Cameron’s. She kept Jeremy Hunt in the health job which is as good as telling us to get lost.
If you haven’t joined the campaign, join us now. Solidarity is strength. It’s our hospital. Let’s keep it.