Campaigners against a massive shake-up of hospital services today began their second 24-hour vigil outside Huddersfield Royal Infirmary,
But the good-natured protest was marred by a run-in with hospital security staff who told them they could not put their belongings behind the metal sign outside the main entrance on Acre Street because it was hospital property.
And when four of them decided to visit a relative of campaign supporter Julie Crowther who is a patient in the hospital, they were told they could not come in while wearing their pink Let’s Save HRI T-shirts.
Campaign secretary Nicola Jowett said: “It was a bit intimidatory. We always stand in front of the sign. Last year, we put our things behind the metal sign and we had no trouble. This year, two security guards came and told us to move them. We were stopped from going into the hospital because we were wearing our campaign T-shirts. Since when could the hospital tell people what they are allowed to wear?”
Let’s Save HRI founder Karl Deitch accused hospital authorities of acting like “a dictatorship.”
But he said the campaign would continue. “Last year’s vigil was a great success. It went really well. There was a lot of support,” he said. “We hope to have even more support this year.”
About 10 campaigners, including Nicola and Julie, planned to observe the full vigil, which will finish at 3pm on Sunday. But many more were showing their support by taking part at various times with about 200 people expected to spend some time with them.
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust plans to replace the infirmary – which has more than 400 beds – with a 64-bed “planned care” facility and transfer capacity to Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, which will be expanded to have 676 beds.
Health bosses have approved the Full Business Case (FBC) for change, which is now being submitted to regulator NHS Improvement for scrutiny.
Newsome Green councillor Andrew Cooper, Colne Valley Labour MP Thelma Walker and Lindley Conservative councillor Gemma Wilson were among those lending support to the protestors today.
Nicola said: “We are still here. The purpose of the 24 hours is symbolic in that we will continue to be here until the trust backs down.”