PROTESTERS vowed to “leave no stone unturned or weapon unused” in the fight to keep 18
PROTESTERS vowed to “leave no stone unturned or weapon unused” in the fight to keep 18 beds at the new Townlands Hospital.
Town councillor Ian Reissmann, who chairs the Townlands Steering Group, made the pledge to thousands of people who had gathered in Market Place after Saturday’s march.
He also threatened to take legal action if necessary in order to save the beds.
Dr Peter Ashby, a retired Henley GP, branded the plans “disastrous” and “poorly thought out” while residents spoke of their disgust at the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s proposals.
The Mayor of Henley, Lorraine Hillier, told the crowds: “We’re really pleased to see such a good turnout but not surprised because there’s such a depth of feeling in the town.
“Our new hospital is being built but without beds. We’re not being listened to — this march is our protest to the commissioning group’s plans to ride roughshod over the wishes of those who know best.
“Thank you for all your support today and we need your continued support to deliver the hospital we were promised.”
There were cheers and applause as Cllr Hillier thanked the Henley Standard for “getting the message out” and “keeping it on the front page”.
Councillor Reissmann told the crowd: “Ten years ago, almost to the day, we gathered here in Market Place to protest about the threat to Townlands Hospital.
“That day I spoke from these steps about the essential healthcare services we need at Townlands. This included minor injuries, outpatients facilities and, very importantly, the beds.
“We were protesting then because we need these services and they were under threat. That need has not changed over the last 10 years.”
He said there were currently 14 “full and well-used beds”. He said the commissioning group had “not been listening and they have not been explaining their plans clearly and openly”.
“Our job is make sure the community’s views are very clear indeed — we do not support the clinical commissioning group’s plans.
“Where are the figures? We asked for the figures but were told ‘no, you can’t have them because you can twist statistics any way you want’. Why is it that no local GPs support these proposals?”
He said residents had been “very reasonable and very patient” but added: “The commissioning group need to understand this: this is our hospital, it is our NHS and they work for us. We not only use the services, we pay for the services and we pay their salaries. We deserve to be treated with respect.”
Cllr Reissmann said the march was “just the beginning” adding: “We’ll continue the petition. Last time we got 11,000 — let’s beat that. We’ll take it to Downing Street, we’ll take legal action if necessary. We’ll get the information they are holding back.
“We will do whatever it takes for common sense to return to the planning of our hospital. The fact that so many of you are here shows that when the commissioning group say their proposals are supported, they are wrong. Our voice will be heard.
“Ten years ago we won the battle to save Townlands Hospital from the threat of closure — we will do the same again this time.” Dr Ashby said: “If they get away with this after six months of this rapid access care unit there will be a decision made to say ‘this is failing because this is not working’. They will then possibly sell off the freehold to the land.
“They have not listened to what we have said, they have taken no notice of what we say and are fully committed to going down this crazy path. We must resist this at all costs.”
Henley MP John Howell thanked the Mayor for organising the march. “She has stood up for the town in a big way and I’m sure you will agree with me that she’s done a sterling job,” he said. “I think the size of this march demonstrates the frustration in the town that the commissioning group do not appear to be listening.”
He said that he had a letter from the commissioning group which began to answer “some of the questions we have all been raising”.
The group had agreed to a date for a meeting with the county’s MPs to understand “what is going on in the county” so the people “never feel you’re being experimented on again”.
But there were shouts of “but we are!” and as Mr Howell finished his speech, there were shouts of “stand up and be counted,” “join us,” and “what are you going to do, John?”