SUPPORT ST BENEDICT'S
23 arrested while defending St Benedict's Hospital
For 6 days in mid-September, St Benedict's Hospital..work-in was systematically and viciously raided by the Wandsworth,Sutton and East Merton Area Health Authority (AHA), backed by a large force of police and a scab private ambulance company, Junesco.
By September 19th, 63 patients had been Forcibly removed from the friendly security of their beds and wards and dispersed in chaos to a variety of other hospitals in the area.
The staff at St Benedicts began their official work-in:to prevent closure of their hospital on November 15th 1979. A very strong support committee was organised in the local community with backing from Battersea and Wandsworth Trades Council, local pensioners and others who wanted to maintain the high level of geriatric care at St Ben's. Local London Ambulance Service (LAS) ambulance drivers pledged their support and refused to cross the picket line except for normal transport.
IT WAS BECAUSE THE WORK-IN WAS SO SUCCESSFUL, that management (with the agreement of Patrick Jenkin, secretary of state for Health and Social Security) was forced to resort to intimidation, confrontation and violence to break the staff and campaign organisation, and force closure of the hospital.
1) To break the strength of the work-in, the AHA took legal action by serving injunctions against 8 leading members of the work-in' This included 4 staff members (from COHSE, NUPE and the RCN), 3 union officials (NUPE and COHSE) and 1 local campaigner.
This was to prevent those named from doing any thing to prevent the removal of patients and to prevent the union-officials from entering the building.
2) The police used the excuse of the new Employment Act to impose an arbitrary limit of 2 pickets only. Then on the fourth day of the raids, they refused to allow any pickets on the gate at all, and the private ambulances got through.
3) As a direct result of the raid, 23 pickets were arrested. The charges range from wilful obstruction to criminal damages. One woman who works in administration at a nearby hospital was suspended from duty, although she was at the picket line on her day off. (She is now waiting the outcome of an inquiry
St Benedict's campaigners calculate that fines arising from the charges may cost several thousand pounds.
THE FIGHTBACK GOES ON
34 patients remain at St Benedict's, and will probably remain there til November. Meanwhile the campaign against cuts, job loss and for decent health care for all continues, all over the country.
JOIN YOUR LOCAL CAMPAIGN. TAKE ACTION TO STOP CUTS.
GIVE GENEROUSLY TO OUR APPEAL FUND
ALL CHEQUES AND MONEY TO :
Battersea and Wandsworth, Trades Council
St Benedict's Defence Fund, 19 Oakland Rd., London SW11
WE APPEAL TO YOU - SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE FIGHTBACK AGAINST CUTS AND CLOSURES
Produced by FIGHTBACK (against health cuts) For St Benedict's Campaign
c/o Arthur Hautot, St Benedict's Hospital, London SW17
30 Camden Rd, London NW1
St Benedict's was occupied by staff against closure from November 1978 until the raids in September 1980 and thus one of the longest running hospital occupations in Britain.
After the closure of the long stay geriatric hospitals, reports on the impact on patient care began to emerge labelled "relocation effects" it highlighted for the first time the impact of speedy closures on patients. Close to a third of patients forcibly moved in the "raids" dying within the first six months.
Arthur Hautot was later a St James Hospital (Balham) COHSE Steward, husband of June Hautot (picture below)