4 Nov 2019

Hospital staff fear for safety with lack of car parks

From Checkpoint, 5:49 pm on 4 November 2019

Nurses at Christchurch Hospital say their safety is under threat because of a lack of staff car parks near the building. 

They say they are often forced to turn up hours early, or sleep in the car, just to secure a park before their shift.

It follows the death of hospital worker Kenneth McCaul, who was killed last month when his car was hit during a police pursuit.

He had left his house in the early hours of the morning and planned on sleeping in his car to get a park near the hospital.

Rosie is a nurse at Christchurch Hospital. She has to arrive at least an hour early to get a free carpark. She told Checkpoint she is concerned about safety.

"At this time of year it's not as bad, but middle of winter, it's cold, pitch-black, a safety issue really.

"We're told to walk with our scissors in our pocket, and I don't think that should be really necessary."

In April 2018, a student nurse was assaulted and robbed at knife-point after she left work about 10:30pm.

In 2015, a midwife was harassed by a man smashing bottles and hurling abuse at her as she walked from work.

Rosie said it's not uncommon for hospital staff to arrive at work hours before they're due to start.

"I've got here at 6am and walked past people asleep in their cars."

Canterbury District Health Board has nearly half the number of staff carparks than it did before the earthquakes, and despite this issue being known for years, a fix has not yet been found - there is simply not the space.

Before the quakes, the CDHB had 1,400 carparks available for staff. Now there are 800.

The CDHB has grappled with this issue for the better part of the decade and no nurse or staff member Checkpoint spoke to blamed management for the lack of parking.

They believed they are doing the best with what they've got, but they are worried that a long-term fix isn't coming.

Chief executive David Meates said the carparking situation has been complicated since the earthquakes.

"We've demolished 44 buildings, including significant parking buildings. What's compounded that has been the removal of free on-street car parking, which has now become time-limited and charged."

He said there are two ongoing pieces of work which will hopefully come up with a solution. The first is looking at short-term options with other authorities in the city.

If that goes ahead, that would make about 500 carparks available - mainly for the public.

Mr Meates hopes that can be announced in the coming three to four weeks.

The second body of work is looking at a long-term fix with the Ministry of Health.

"That is still a work in progress, and probably a longer-term process," Mr Meates said.

The Ministry of Health said in a statement it acknowledges the frustrations around car parking at the hospital for staff and patients.

It said, however, it is taking longer than planned due to additional site planning and changes to the wider hospital campus development which are still to be confirmed.