AROUND 600 health campaigners and health workers held a march and rally in Swansea on 28 April to protest at the threat to services in the area. The neurosurgery unit at Swansea's Morriston hospital is threatened with closure and relocation to Cardiff.
On top of that, Fairwood hospital is threatened with closure together with ward one at Hill House hospital while the accident and emergency unit at Prince Philip hospital in Llanelli is to be downgraded. Altogether over 200 hospital beds are to be lost in Swansea. All this adds up to a potential disaster for the NHS in South West Wales. It is literally a matter of life and death.
The march was organised by the campaign group 'NHS - SOS' (Save Our Services), in which Socialist Party members are playing a prominent role.
Not surprisingly, five days before the elections to the Welsh Assembly, political parties of all persuasions were keen to address the rally. The Tory speaker was roundly booed when he showed breathtaking hypocrisy by attacking New Labour for making cuts in the NHS. However, the Labour speaker, Andrew Davies, a member of the Welsh Assembly government fared little better given Labour's record on the NHS.
Ross Saunders, speaking on behalf of the Socialist Party, questioned why the health service unions continue to give financial support to a party that is presiding over closures and downgrading in the NHS.
Pride of place at the rally went to workers from the affected hospitals who graphically outlined the effect of the cuts on the patients they served.
The racist BNP tried to get in on the act by turning up at the start of the march and attempting to distribute leaflets. A delegation of stewards approached them and made clear that they and their divisive message were not welcome. Faced with the marchers' hostility and the stewards' stance they decided to withdraw.
The campaign to save our services in South West Wales will now move on to a lobby of Health Commission Wales. There is a determined mood to fight on this issue.