|This cross party public meeting at the Evergreen Hall this evening presented a compelling snapshot of the future of the NHS in the hands of the ‘big 3’ parties. That the majority of the public don’t want a political debate on their NHS leaves its future firmly in their hands. In amidst all this depressing stuff, it was unexpected to come away with a few shreds of comfort in the form of having my faith in the ABMU Health Board enhanced a little.
I sat quietly through the early exchanges that presented the unedifying spectacle of the selfish and narrow-minded arguing for the protection of the PoW on the grounds that ‘I am a Bridgend person and I deserve to keep my services more than people in Taff Ely or Merthyr Tydfil’. A few made attempts to back up their arguments with a degree of rationality and evidence, but it never approached being compelling.
Members of the ABMU Health Board were in attendance and although they were being constantly put on the defensive, they did in fact present a robust defence of their position and convinced me that:
If these points are accepted, then what is the point of forming an an ‘intelligent’ and ‘focussed’ campaign group with the sole unambiguous aim of forcing the ABMU Health Board to decide in favour of protecting service levels at the Princess of Wales?
A successful campaign would be at the acknowledged expense of either the much newer (opened in 2000) Royal Glamorgan Hospital, near Talbot Green, or the Prince Charles Hospital, in Merthyr Tydfil – an area that has had more than it fair share of deprivation already. If the ABMU do their job properly and thoroughly, as I fully expect them to do, then either the PoW is not downgraded because of the excellence it provides and the logistical sense it makes location wise, OR it loses out to the other hospitals because they are better able to provide the high quality care and are better located to serve the regions whole population.
For a campaign group of local politicians and enthusiastic NIMBYists to alter this decision would be a travesty against democracy and against social justice.
This is the point that I endeavoured to convey when I addressed the gathering. That we were here to fight cutbacks in services is not the ABMU’s fault. They are tasked with the impossible task of trying to create the proverbial silk purse from a sow’s ear. What we are witnessing is the inevitable scramble to selfishly protect our precious share of resources at the expense of our neighbours.
By their own figures, NHS Wales will see a funding shortfall £250m to £445m in 2013/14, just to stay still on services. This is BEFORE trying to take on new advances in medical treatments; caring for an aging population; relieving the shortage of nurses by paying them an attractive wage; reducing doctors and consultants working hours by investing a huge amount more recruitment and training; thereby also helping to maintain standards and retain them.
The reality is that the NHS is already seriously underfunded. The squabbles we are seeing in the ABM region are only going to worsen and intensify all the time we have to endure the political landscape we currently have in this country – three brands of capitalism; three brands of austerity and cuts; three brands of social inequality; three brands of low taxes and survival of the (financially) fittest at the expense of the (financially) weakest.
It was not just me making these points. Fellow socialists from the Socialist Party and Plaid Cymru reinforced what I was saying, but were shouted down for ‘politicising’ the debate, while the culprits for the situation from the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour were given a soft ride despite the stench of hypocrisy and blatant playing to the gallery.
At least they cannot say they were not warned that this whole scenario is the early stages of Rosa Luxemberg’s prophecy that we will have to eventually choose between ecosocialism or barbarism. Ecosocialism is only one real choice, but barbarism is the default option if the choice is not made.