Councillors’ anger at plans to charge hospital staff for parking
LOCAL councillors have voiced their outrage at plans to charge staff to park at Antrim Area Hosptial.
SDLP Councillor Kieron McMullan raised the issue at a council meeting last week and said he was aghast at plans to introduce charges for staff parking on top of the already controversial parking charges in place for patients.
“I don’t think anybody goes to park at Antrim Area Hospital just for the sake of it,” Cllr. McMullan said.
He added that he had learned that in relation to staff parking charges, figures of around £50 per month had been mentioned.
“This council should be up in arms against it,” Cllr. McMullan told fellow councillors at last week’s Public Services Committee meeting.
He added that he wanted to hear from hospital chiefs the reason behind their decision to possibly introduce charges for staff parking.
Cllr. Adrian Watson referred to the practice before the carparking charges were introduced in which people were using the hospital carpark to park their cars and go to Belfast.
Indeed, the Antrim Times revealed over three years ago how holidaymakers were parking their cars at the hospital and getting a taxi to the airport.
But, Cllr. Watson said he too was against the practice of charging patients and staff.
And Cllr. Trevor Clarke said that he had been against parking charges at the hospital from the start but he noted that, after attending the hospital recently, he had noticed a great difference in being able to get a parking space.
He added, however, that he was still against parking charges and called for a meeting with hospital chiefs.
“I want to hear Sean Donaghy’s [Northern Trust Chief Executive] rationale for charging staff,” Cllr. Clarke said.
It was agreed that council would seek a meeting with hospital chiefs.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Northern Trust said that the Department of Health has issued a car parking policy to all Trusts for consideration.
He added that the policy will be subject to consultation with representatives of all groups affected including staff Trades Unions.
The policy asks Trusts “to ensure that the introduction of car-parking charging reflects a reasonable balance between the perceived needs of legitimate car park users and the costs of providing and maintaining car-parking facilities”.
It also states that “where patients and visitors are required to pay, consideration should be given to charging staff”; visitors have been paying to park at Antrim and Causeway hospitals for more than a year.
The spokesperson added: “Given the current financial pressures on Health and Social Care and the costs of providing and maintaining car parks, it is reasonable and fair that these proposals should be given consideration.”
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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