The campaign to stop the closure of the A&E and maternity departments at Lewisham hospital continues.
The threat stems from problems at the South London Healthcare Trust and these are entirely due to PFI debt.
Back in the 1990s PFI consortia built two hospitals in Woolwich and Bromley at a cost of £210 million. The annual repayment is £69million and over the course of 30 years the total bill will come to over £2 billion.
Using the handy mortgage calculator on the Money Savings Expert website, Workers Liberty calculated that SLHT are locked into a mortgage with a 33% interest rate.
To put this in context, the average house price in the UK is £250,000. If these homeowners paid signed up to mortgages at the 33% PFI rate then their monthly repayments would be £6785 a month.
The average homeowner would have to earn a pre-tax salary over £150,000 a year just to pay off their mortgage! Homeownership would be restricted to “the 1%”.
But the SLHT are not alone in signing up to these extraordinary rates of interest. It is estimated that PFI consortia have built £11.4 billion of hospitals and by 2049 will have pocketed over £65 billion in taxpayers money.
This means that the average PFI contract is paying out at around 19% rate of interest — a higher rate than has ever been seen in the history of the credit markets.
As more and more NHS Trusts struggle with the PFI debt, the government will be sending in bureaucrats like Matthew Kershaw (Special Administrator in South London) to ensure that the NHS can continue to function as a moneyspinner for the PFI capitalists — even at the expense of shutting down hospitals.
But we should not be too superstitious about the power of these dodgy debt obligations. The hospitals have been paid for many times over. The people who now own PFI debt are simply holding entitlements to future streams of income tax.
If we decided to keep open the services they want to cut by carrying on working , what would happen? A handful of exceedingly rich individuals might be a bit upset, but would they send the bailiffs in? If the doctors continued to perform life-saving treatment would they be arrested? If the nurses at continued to admit patients would the police try and barricade the doors?
The people who make Lewisham hospital work have the power to stop this closure. By ignoring orders to shut down the hospital we can force the government to cancel the rip-off PFI debt and nobody would suffer.
From "Hospital Worker" bulletin