Posts Tagged ‘hospitals’

End Gaza Invasion: 2014

Monday, July 26th, 2021

Israel ‘disengaged’ from Gaza in 2005, but retained many controls in what international bodies still consider a form of occupation. It has maintained a blockade, controlling access by sea and air to the area which has a closed border with Egypt and strict border controls to Israel. With 1.85m Palestinians on under 140 square miles it is the third most densely populated area in the world. (See Wikipedia for most of the figures in this post.)

The Israeli and US-led economic blockade of Gaza, imposed after Hamas gained a majority in the area in the 2006 elections and too over from Fatah in 2007 has stopped the import and export of many goods, and together with damage caused by Israel air raids and invasions has led to severe shortages of water, medicine and power.

The protest in London on July 26th 2014 came during the Israeli ‘Operation Protective Edge’, which had begun on July 8th with bombing and artillery fire and escalated to a ground invasion on July 17th, with the aim of killing as many Palestinian militants as possible. It was sparked by the murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas members but the Israeli response was quite disproportionate.

Estimates of deaths and damage vary slightly, but agree that over two thousand Palestinians were killed, with the UN suggesting that 1,462 of these were civilians. 67 Israeli soldiers were killed and 6 civilians were killed by Palestinian rockets.

The damage to properties was similarly disproportioate. While around 18,000 homes were destroyed or seriously damaged in Gaza, Palestinian rockets only destroyed one in Israel. Gaza also lost over 200 places of worship, and almost three hundred primary schools and 73 medical facilities were badly damaged or destroyed. The attacks are said to have produced around 2.5 million tons of rubble in Gaza.

Jeremy Corbyn on the march in Whitehall

This is of course not the only year in which there were attacks by Israel on Gaza. “008-9 saw ‘Operation Cast Lead’ which also produced incredible devastation and over a thousand Palestinian Deaths and 13 of Israelis. In 2018 there were border protests in which over 13,000 Palestinians were seriously wounded by Israeli snipers and many killed. A UN Human Rights Council’s independent commission examined 489 cases of Palestinian deaths or injuries and found that only two were possibly justified as responses to danger and the rest were illegal. And most recently in May 2021 there were ten days of attacks by Israeli forces resulting in more destruction and deaths.

The protest on July 26th began on the main road close to the Israeli Embassy, tucked away in a private street in Kensington. Soon themain road was packed with people many too far away to hear the speeches despite the amplification. Finally it moved off on its way to Parliament Square.

There was a long list of speakers at the rally, including a number of well-known musicians and other public figures, but I began to feel rather tired, having been on my feet too long covering this and another protest, and I left before the end. But you can see pictures of many of the speakers as well as the crowd in My London Diary.

As usual there were many Jewish supporters of Palestine on the march, and a small group of the ultra-orthodox Neturei Karta anti-Zionist Jews who had walked from north London to join the rally.

Stop the Massacre in Gaza Rally
End Gaza Invasion March to Parliament
Israeli Embassy rally – End Gaza Invasion

Save St Helier Hospital – 7 July 2018

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

The battle by local campaigners against the closure of acute facilities at Epsom and St Helier Hospitals in south London has been hard fought and illustrates many of the problems faced by the NHS as the government has called for huge savings from hospital trusts, many made paupers by PFI repayments.

The situation continues to develop after the march which I photographed on Saturday 7th July 2018, and in July 2020 plans were approved to build a new smaller Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Sutton which will bring together six acute services, A&E, critical care, acute medicine, emergency surgery, inpatient paediatrics and maternity services.

The trust say in the documentation for the first phase of public consultation which closed on 30th June 2021 that “85% of current services will stay at Epsom Hospital and St Helier Hospital. There will be urgent treatment centres open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at both of these hospitals.”

But health service unions and campaigners are worried by the proposals, which they say will strip acute services including two fully functioning A&E departments. The proposed urgent treatment centres will not have the capacity to treat life threatening illness. They say the downgrading of the two major hospitals will endanger the lives of people living in the area.

The new unit is one of 40 across the country which have been announced several times as a part of the governments increased investment in the NHS. Many see this and other similar schemes as being designed to increase privatisation and make involvement in the health service more attractive to healthcare companies.

July 7th was a sweltering hot day in London, and the walk from a park in the centre of Sutton to the St Helier Open Space in front of the hospital went through Sutton High St, fairly crowded with shoppers and then along hot, dusty streets with few people around. Walking was tiring, and taking photographs even more so. It was a difficult event to photograph, where I found relatively little to work with. But I was pleased to be there, supporting the campaign to keep the hospitals open and serving the community, part of a National Health Service that was celebrating 70 years of being brought into existence by a Labour Government.

It took a huge and deterimined fight by Nye Bevan to get the National Health Service Act passed, with Tories denouncing it as bringing National Socialism to the country and opposing it in parliament at every opportunity. But on 5th July 1948 we got the NHS, although almost ever since the Conservative party when in power has been looking for and finding ways to convert it from a universal public health care system to a service run for private profit.

NHS at 70 – Save St Helier Hospital