Hundreds take protest to the streets
HANDS off our hospitals!That was the message as hundreds of angry residents let their feelings be known by bringing Felixstowe town centre to a standstill as they urged health bosses not to close their much-loved hospitals.
HANDS off our hospitals!
That was the message as hundreds of angry residents let their feelings be known by bringing Felixstowe town centre to a standstill as they urged health bosses not to close their much-loved hospitals.
More than 600 people – young and old, fit and those in wheelchairs and on mobility scooters – joined the protest march through the town centre.
Many carried Evening Star posters and placards, banners, and sported campaign T-shirts, chanting as they walked, spurred on by hooting motorists.
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Escorted by police, they marched down Hamilton Road and Cobbold Road to the General Hospital for a short rally, before going on to the Bartlet, where they surrounded the building and held hands to create a ring of protection.
Staff at the hospitals were overwhelmed by the support. They carried on treating people arriving with injuries at the Minor Injuries Unit as the rally took place.
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Roy Gray, chairman of the Save Our Felixstowe Hospitals action group said it had been "a wonderful turnout" and thanked everyone for taking part."
"It is great to know the public is behind us 100 per cent and we are going to fight this all the way – Felixstowe cannot afford to lose its hospitals," he said.
"We are asking the Primary Care Trust some tough questions, and we will be asking them of government, too.
"This area only gets 90 per cent of the funding it needs to deal with a population which has a lot of frail and elderly people and numbers of which are increasing – if it had that extra ten pc of funding it would not have debts at all."
Gillian Ib and Lucy Croydon, great-granddaughters of Charles Croydon, who built Felixstowe General and gave it as a gift to the town, said they were "absolutely appalled" at the thought of closure.
"We feel very passionately about this situation – we cannot let them shut this hospital and this fantastic support here today shows that people really care and must be listened to," said Mrs Ib.
"Our great-grandfather gave this hospital to the town as a charitable gift and he would be appalled at the thought it might be closed, and closed to pay a debt.
"It's not as if we are getting a new hospital – we are getting absolutely zilch."
CAMPAIGNERS received a message of support from Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer as they set off – vowing to fight with them all the way.
Mr Gummer was abroad and could not attend the march but said he was determined not to let either of the hospitals close.
He had made health minister Patricia Hewitt aware of the strength of feeling.
"I have warned her directly that the people of Felixstowe will not allow closure to take place, even if it means taking the strongest action open to us," he said.
"These closures are the result of the government's refusal to fund East Suffolk in the same way as they fund other parts of the country.
"We are given less money than almost all other areas and we have more frail and old people to look after. Don't shut the hospitals, open up the fund instead."