These wards manage the care of patients with cancer, serious trauma and circulatory conditions. Staff report that, even before the amalgamation, patients are routinely being turned away on the day of planned operations due to lack of beds. The number of people waiting longer than 13 weeks for surgery in the Belfast Trust more than doubled in the last quarter of 2009. Clearly, slashing these beds further will mean even longer waits for essential surgery, putting patients and their families under huge stress and endangering lives.
Of course, staff are also directly effected. At least five nursing staff will be redeployed to other areas, effectively meaning the loss of five jobs. Support staff positions are also under threat. Workers are extremely worried about their futures, as they understand that these cuts are only the beginning of an avalanche to come.
This attack- just like the closure of Mid-Ulster and Whiteabbey A&E units and the threat to downgrade the Mater- is a direct result of the £813 million cuts in health the Assembly Executive has voted for in the past year. It’s clear the Tory/LibDem coalition will be demanding even more cuts and they’ll get little resistance from the main local parties, who are all signed up to the agenda of making working-class people pay for the economic crisis. Trade union activists must immediately begin to campaign for a one-day public sector strike to begin a real fight-back to defend jobs and services.
This is clearly only the beginning as all the Assembly parties support cuts and privatisation of the public sector. In particular Tom Hartley Sinn Fein Councillor who sits on the Belfast Trust Board has continually refused to oppose the cuts and privatisation in healthcare. But he appears content to support his party in the Executive along with the other parties who are overseeing the attacks on public sector jobs and services.
The starting point is simple; we do not have to accept any cuts in jobs, pay, conditions or services. This crisis was created by the greed of the rich and the bankers, not by public sector workers and it is not their responsibility to pay for it! The trade union movement should move quickly into building a mass campaign in opposing all cuts in public services, pay, conditions and pensions up to and including industrial action.
The Socialist Party have been at the forefront of exposing the lies of the Assembly parties and will continue to campaign on this issue in local communities and amongst workers.