AROUND 5,000 people joined a demonstration against the closure of the A&E department at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) today, Saturday. It was part of a more general resistance to NHS cuts.
In January the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) decided to reject a storm of public protest and put out for consultation a plan to close the Huddersfield A&E.
Throughout the march people were chanting, “CCG here us say, HRI is here to stay!”
Closing the A&E will mean patients have to travel to Halifax. The fears that this will lead to deaths was symbolised when marchers held a 30 second silence in memory of the first youngster to die because it took too long to get Halifax.
Nick Ruff, chair of Kirklees Unison said the march was a magnificent show of power. He was proud that the union banner and many members were on the march.
At the rally Kirklees council leader David Sheard said, “It’s not about Huddersfield v Halifax and it’s not just about A&E, it’s about saving hospitals in every town.
“We need somewhere for everyone to go to when they feel they need help.”
Mike Forster from the #HandsoffHRI steering committee asked the crowd. “Is this a done deal?” Demonstrators chorused, “No!”
“This is Huddersfield’s biggest post-war demonstration,” Mike said. “This is only the beginning of the most important campaign in our history”.
Labour’s Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff, said: “I worked in the NHS so I know exactly what’s on the line here. We can do this if we all stick together.”
There was some booing when Tory MP Jason McCartney spoke and said, “Everyone is united for the A&E." A voice from the crowd shouted back, “We’re not united, your bloody government is cutting the NHS to shreds."
Pat Jones of the Slawit Health Centre SOS group said that the march is a step nearer to stopping the Tories’ attempt to dismantle the NHS.
The town’s statue of Harold Wilson was decorated with Save Our A&E placards.
There’s a real determination to win, and a readiness for further actions.
The Proclaimers song “I'm gonna be (500 miles)” was booming out as marchers returned to the start point of the demo in St George’s Square.
Protest leaders told people to go to the consultation meetings over the closure. These start on 15 March and run until June.
Jenny Goldman of the Colne Valley Youth Forum told about a meeting she had with Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament last week. He told Jenny and her delegation of the fight when his local A&E was under threat—a successful fight."
This great march can be a spur to further struggle. The unions should unite with the communities to stop their horrendous closure plan.