By Danny Donnelly
THE NORTHERN Health Trust recently announced a series of cuts, closures and privatisation to save £44 million in the next three years in line with the Budget and agenda for government.
Local people in this area were shocked and furious when they heard that the Trust was proposing to strip away many vital services that they depend on for healthcare. The proposals include: the removal of acute services from two busy hospitals in Whiteabbey and Magherafelt, the closure of five of the Trust’s nine residential homes for the elderly, a re-provision of care for children, mental health and learning disability services, introduction of fees in hospital car parks and the privatisation of home care domiciliary workers.
Naturally, many sections of society will feel the effect of this round of vicious cuts and they have started to organise to fight against their imposition. At the threatened Clomore residential home in Rathcoole, a group of residents, staff and families have joined together in an action group with other affected areas to prevent their homes being closed. Colleen Long, a representative of the group, told The Socialist, “It is a disgrace that the Trust is causing so much stress and worry to these groups of elderly people and their families.” Homecare workers from several affected areas approached the Socialist Party and were determined to join up with workers from other localities to fight the cuts.
They all agree that only a mass campaign built in the affected communities could stop this programme of cuts becoming a sad reality. Angry public meetings have been held. Four hundred people packed a meeting in Larne. Five hundred people turned up to protest against cuts at another sham “consultation” meeting in Carrickfergus. In Magherafelt, about 70 people met to discuss how to fight the cuts. There was widespread mistrust of everything the Trust panel said in their sham consultations in Coleraine. Bizarrely, rather than allowing people hear from Socialist Party members what role the Assembly parties are playing, the meeting in Coleraine resulted in a walkout led by councillors from the same parties who are implementing the 9% cut in the Health service budget!