03/04/09 Some Progress At Last

At times our fight can feel hopeless. We are up against a huge, powerful enemy that has no intention of slowing down or stopping until the ultimate ideal is reached. But today I bring good news and a reason to never give up – fighting back works. I will give the words of Colin Grainger from F2C:

“Five days ago, author Rich White wrote an article for Freedom to Choose called “Smoker Apartheid Has Arrived”.

Rich, and all right-thinking people were incensed at the Royal Oldham Hospital’s callous and thoughtless sign in their maternity ward which said

“In the interests of others, smokers are not welcome”.

Luckily, the piece was brought to the attention of our good friend and supporter, Godfrey Bloom MEP. Following up on a letter from one of his constituents, Godfrey took action. He took action because he was absolutely outraged, and he wrote to the Chief Executive of the Trust concerned.

This is the letter:

Mr John Saxby

Chief Executive

The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust

Trust Headquarters North Manchester General Hospital

Delaunays Road

Crumpsall

M8 5RB

Dear Mr Saxby,

I am writing to you after a complaint by a constituent about access to one of the hospitals in your Trust, The Royal Oldham. This constituent was visiting the maternity ward and was surprised to see a prominent sign which read, “in the interests of others, smokers are not allowed in this room”. Whilst I can understand the wish and need to have the maternity wing of the hospital as no smoking, this blanket ban on smokers cannot be justified. Is the hospital really suggesting that a father who happens to be a smoker is not to be allowed to visit his child and the mother of that child? What justification can there possibly be to have such a policy? If it is due to the latest scare, promoted by the Great Ormand Street hospital (http://www.childrenfirst.nhs.uk/kids/news/news/2009/smoke_risk.html) then it is unjustifiable in the extreme. The study referred to here is unscientific, as it concerns a random telephone poll asking leading questions about people’s opinion. See here (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/123/1/e74) Not surely a justification of further demonising and marginalising a sector of society who are merely indulging in a legal activity. A hospital is a centre of rational thought. This is a study of bias and prejudice. As such I will be very interested in whether you support the stand taken by the Royal Oldham.

Yours

Godfrey Bloom MEP

Three things stand out to me. All of them make Godfrey a great politician.

1. He listened to his constituent.

2. He promised action.

3. He delivered on his promise.

Mr Bloom can teach all political parties a valuable lesson here. Hopefully they might want to emulate him someday.

The reply from Mr Saxby?

Here you go:

Mr Bloom,

You must know that smoking in hospitals and other public buildings was banned by law in England from 1st July 2007. As such the Royal Oldham Hospital are only ensuring that smoking inside our hospitals does not happen. I suspect however from its wording that the sign is an old one dating back to an era when smoking inside hospitals was permitted. The wording is a trifle clumsy, I grant you. People who choose to smoke can of course come into our hospitals, and many do each and every day. However they cannot smoke when they do so. I will have the old sign removed. We have new notices outside all of buildings telling the public that it is illegal to smoke within Hospital buildings and we have notices at the entrances to all of our hospital sites advising that our grounds and gardens are Non Smoking as well. I take the point that we do not need signs within the buildings as well

John Saxby

No apology. Just “The wording is a little clumsy, I grant you“. It was more than clumsy, you unthinking oaf, it was disgraceful, discriminatory, and absolutely wrong.

And just for the record Mr Saxby, your signs saying that your “grounds and gardens are non smoking” are meaningless. We’ll overlook the fact that they are not your grounds and gardens. They are mine, and every other tax-payer’s in the UK. We paid for them, and we continue to pay for their upkeep. The Health Act 2006 says that enclosed public spaces were designated as non smoking. Not the great outdoors. The Latin term for your illegal signs is ultra vires. In English? It means you are acting outside the law. You have exceeded that which was laid out in the legislation.

In fact, I think I will make a special trip to Oldham so that I can visit my hospital for a smoke in my garden. Let me know where your ivory tower is, the one we paid for and that we pay you to sit in, so that I can wave to you.

As we learned recently, British hospitals between them bury 72,000 of their “mistakes” every year. Wards are riddled with MRSA. Patients who pop in for an overnight stay to have a busted knee fixed leave in a coffin.

Perhaps if you concentrated a little more on serious issues like that, rather than your infantile signs and your unenforceable demands, we might get something done about those very real deaths?

We pay you to ensure sick people get well and are sent home to their families. We expect patients, visitors and staff to be treated with respect and dignity.

Why don’t you give that a try?

To Mr Bloom we owe a debt. We thank you for fighting our corner. You are a rare man indeed.

We know you don’t smoke, which makes your action in this case especially welcome.

This is a small, sweet victory.

Watch this space. We intend to share many more with you.

Oh yes. One final word to ASH. We know you were almost orgasmic when you heard about this inhuman sign at the Royal Oldham. John Banzhaf III immediately embarrassed himself, and his religious movement, by bleating to all and sundry that the sign was right and proper.

Three words for you:

Screw you John.”

We are making a difference. Every small step is a step closer to our own ideal – that which we had and took for granted: personal freedom. We are now on a quest to regain that liberation, and slowly but surely we are taking chunks out of their armour.

Onwards and upwards.

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