Lady Cilento Hospital staff forced into off-site parking
STAFF at Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane have warned patient safety could be affected amid a crackdown on discounted parking.
From Monday, more than 50 staff will have their discounted rate for on-site parking revoked, and will be required to pay the full public rate of $30 per day if they wish to continue using the hospital's basement car park.
It's part of a wider effort to move 300 staff out of the three hospital parking facilities operated by Mater Health Services in a bid to free up spaces for patients and their families.
Last year, Children's Health Queensland secured 100 parking spaces at the South Bank Parklands, a five- to 10-minute walk away, and a further 200 at the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre, a 15- to 20-minute walk away.
While the alternate parking is being offered for $35 per week, many are unhappy at the hospital's handling of the process after their applications to continue parking on-site were rejected by a committee.
"Staff are being bullied into moving as a result of poor planning and management of the issue," one hospital worker told news.com.au.
"It has been an extremely unfair and one-sided process. If staff can no longer park at the precinct it's going to have an impact on patient safety. Staff that still meet the criteria as per the policy have responded and have had zero feedback or response from this so-called 'parking committee'."
He said many staff would have difficulty getting to work on time. "Staff are already now refusing to do duties before and after work as Lady Cilento will not recognise their start times," he said.
Last year, after the plans to push staff into off-site parking were announced, Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Shaun Rudd said it was not a long-term solution.
"It's no more than an interim move and the hospital must look at bigger picture to try to come to some resolution for patients and staff," he said. Lack of parking and poor access at the busy South Brisbane site were flagged as issues by doctors more than a decade ago, with then Premier Peter Beattie accused of putting votes before planning.
The three Mater parking facilities in the hospital precinct contain 3763 spaces servicing five hospitals - the Mater Private, Mater Adults, Mater Mothers, the Mater Children's Private and the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital. Of those, 650 spaces are in the Lady Cilento basement car park.
The parking drought at the superhospital became so severe that local residents took to advertising their carports and driveways for $200 a month or more, The Courier-Mail reported last year. In many cases, parents of sick children confronted by the "carpark full" sign were forced to abandon appointments and return home.
"Who would build Queensland's only children's hospital in such a busy city location? Premier Beattie was warned there would be big problems with access, traffic and parking but he went on ahead without proper consultation," Zelle Hodge, former AMA Queensland president, said at the time.
A spokesman for Children's Health Queensland said improving parking availability for families was an ongoing priority. "Regular audits of parking in the hospital's basement car park have identified a high degree of usage by hospital staff," he said.
"This limits the number of parking spaces available for patients and their families. [The] off-site parking is $20 cheaper a fortnight for staff and can be salary-sacrificed, which reduces the out-of-pocket cost even further."
The new policy, introduced in September last year and "regularly communicated to staff since", outlines the eligibility criteria for staff to continue receiving discounted on-site parking.
"This criteria includes staff who work regular afternoon, evening and weekend shifts, staff with a physical disability which requires them to park close to work, and staff who need their vehicle for official work purposes," he said.
"There is also provision for extenuating and changing circumstances, both personal and professional, to be considered. Staff who are on-call are also eligible for an on-call pass which allows them to park under the hospital when required.
"About 50 staff who did not meet the specific criteria to receive discounted parking under the hospital were notified in March 2017 and again in May 2017 and asked to consider voluntarily taking up the alternative staff parking arrangements.
"Every staff member was given right of reply and where individuals have opted to exercise this right, their case has been assessed against the eligibility criteria."
Last year, doctors and nurses at NSW's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital threatened to resign over a lack of parking, after the hospital's car park was taken over by a private operator which subsequently reduced the number of parks available to staff.