HEALTH campaigners want to see thousands defiantly marching down Eastbourne seafront later this month in what locals are being warned could be a make or break demonstration against controversial health cuts.
The Save the DGH team wants Eastbourne to emulate the mass turn-out enjoyed by a similar march back in 2006 which attracted more than 5,000 during a long-running fight against plans to centralise maternity services.
That protest ultimately proved successful and campaign chairman Liz Walke believes an equally impressive gathering on Saturday, September 15 could have just as big an impact.
Ms Walke says the Save the DGH team will fight plans to concentrate stroke care, general surgery and orthopaedics at either the DGH or the Conquest in Hastings.
But, she added, it is vitally important thousands turn up to the march to show East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust that the Save the DGH team has a mandate to campaign on behalf of local people.
“We need more than 5,000 people,” she said, “and need to make sure the Trust knows just how many we are representing. If not enough turn up the Trust can say we are overestimating how many are against the plans.
“If these services go, it is inevitable that others, such as maternity and paediatrics, will soon follow.
“If we miss this opportunity we won’t be able to oppose future plans because the infrastructure needed for departments like maternity will have already gone.
“Anyone who does not think it is acceptable for patients in need of emergency, possibly life-threatening medical treatment, to have to endure a 30-minute ambulance journey to Hastings before that treatment can be started needs to join the march.
“This is our big chance to show we do not want the DGH to become a cottage hospital.”
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust has long maintained the current proposals are more about driving up quality of care than cost cutting and the plans were made in conjunction with a host of local clinical experts.
The Trust also denies the three currently under threat are the first in a long line of services earmarked for centralisation.
However, plenty of workers in the local health service have been vocal in speaking out against the plans and Ms Walke believes now is the time for the town to speak with one voice.
“We need everyone to come down,” she said. “Whatever the weather it is important as many as possible come along so we can send a message to the Trust that Eastbourne does not want to lose these services, or any others.”
Marchers are being asked to meet at the Redoubt at 10am, with a rally starting at 11am. Organisers also want people from Sovereign Harbour to head down to the meet en masse to join the protestors.
If you would like to be a member of the Sovereign Harbour group,email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘DGH – count me in’ in the title.
For the latest news from the Save the DGH team, visit www.savethedgh.org.uk or follow them on Twitter a@SavetheDGH
HEALTH campaigners are busy printing off thousands of posters and piles of badges and hundreds of wrist bands have also been ordered to make sure marches are fully kitted out come Saturday, September 15.
But to ensure things go according to plan, organisers are on the look-out for locals to help stewards the crowds.
Anyone who wants to lend a hand can contact the Save the DGH team by emailing email@example.com or calling 01323 460991. Anyone willing to help distribute posters in the run-up to the march should also get in touch.