Friday, December 17, 2010

Hospitals Block Care For Protesters

Kettled, beaten - and denied treatment
by Patty McGuffin

From: Morning Star The Daily Communist Paper in the United Kingdom

Ambulance Service chief admits wounded protesters are turned away from some hospitals

London Ambulance Service has admitted operating a policy of segregation where injured protesters are denied treatment in certain hospitals, the Morning Star can reveal.

An email sent by Ambulance Service chief executive Peter Bentley - a copy of which has been seen by the Star - suggests that this is done because "by definition those protesters that are injured are likely to be those at the seat of disorder."

The issue of alleged segregation arose last week after student protester Alfie Meadows sustained severe head injuries after apparently being hit with a police baton.

Mr Meadows collapsed suffering from bleeding on the brain and was rushed to Chelsea and Westminster hospital. According to his mother Susan Meadows, police attempted to prevent him being treated there.

Only after a stand-off during which a paramedic apparently refused to take the critically injured patient elsewhere was he admitted to the hospital where Mr Meadows underwent an emergency three-hour operation.

Ms Meadows said her son could have died if the operation had been delayed.

Following the incident Mr Bentley wrote, in response to an individual who had questioned whether such a policy existed, "The practice of segregation of protesters and police/statutory service once injured in public order situations is a long-standing one and one that has been in place for many years."

He added: "It is designed to prevent the emergency department/NHS premises from becoming a further seat of disorder with protesters and police officers being in the same place.

"It prevents the potential for fighting to break out in the A&E as by definition those protesters that are injured are likely to be those at the seat of disorder."

He said that on the day in question Chelsea and Westminster hospital had been designated to treat police casualties and that protesters had been taken to three other London hospitals.

A London Ambulance Service spokesman confirmed that this was its policy and had been for some time.

Green Party Metropolitan Police Authority member Jenny Jones said: "This policy seems to assume that injured protesters are troublemakers, but anyone can get hurt in large crowds.

"Our absolute priority should be getting anyone in need of emergency medical attention to the nearest hospital."

Campaigning charity Inquest's co-director Deborah Coles said: "Surely the primary duty of any medical person is to ensure an injured person gets medical attention as soon as possible regardless of who they are. A policy like this obviously raises ethical issues."

And Stop the War Coalition convener Lindsey German said: "As we know in the case of three people who have been killed on demonstrations, Ian Tomlinson, Blair Peach and Kevin Gately, not only did they not bring these injuries upon themselves but the exact opposite was true. Ian Tomlinson was not even on the demonstration.

"There is also the fact that if police behaved differently on these demonstrations no-one would need hospital treatment."

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