Wellington Hospital staff worry for safety over reduced car parks in Newton

2:21 pm on 8 September 2023
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Wellington Hospital staff fear being assaulted in the car park after late shifts. Photo: 123rf

Wellington Hospital staff are worried a new parking plan will endanger the safety of shift workers and see patients unfairly fined.

The City Council wants to put a two-hour limit more than 2000 parking spaces in Newtown and Berhampore, with an exemption for residents with a $195 annual permit.

Wellington Hospital nurse Hilary Gardner said she was scared to walk more than 10 minutes to her car in the dark after work.

She said the hospital was so understaffed that her shifts were often extended to the early hours of the morning.

"I don't like walking through Newtown in the dark, at 3am, to my car. I will walk with my keys poking out of my fingers just in case".

Wellington City Council has admitted 800-1200 hospital workers who park in Newtown could be impacted.

City Design manager Vida Christeller said there would be more time-limited parks near the hospital so patients could get to appointments.

She said it would also free up more spaces for residents.

"We will still have enough space within a 10-minute walking distance from the hospital for those staff to find a park. They'll just have to walk a bit further".

Christeller said 80 percent of hospital staff worked from 9am to 5pm.

But Gardner said the plan ignored shift workers and their safety.

"You're talking about a young, female workforce who are working shifts that finish anytime after 7pm.

"Now you're asking them to walk further than 10 minutes in darkness when we know there have been assaults on staff leaving hospitals".

The Nurses Union delegate said the limited onsite staff parking, which cost about $100 a month, was expensive and many people relied on the free parking in Newtown.

She said it was poor timing for council to introduce restrictions that would make it harder for shift-workers providing critical care to patients.

"If we can't protect our staff then we're going to lose more staff, and we're already in a staffing crisis".

Another hospital worker, Debbie, drove to her day shifts in Newtown from her home on the Kāpiti Coast.

But she already had to park a kilometre or two walk away from the hospital.

"That's fine if you are feeling 100 percent, or it's not pouring with rain, or if you're not carrying supermarket shopping back to your car with you."

Her colleague Angie was worried the parking plan would make access worse for patients rather than improve it.

She said staff were so overworked that outpatient appointments never ran to time.

"I think those people that already find it hard to access health services are going to be really affected, if they're then getting a fine for parking overtime due to circumstances outside of their control".

Christeller said council had been working closely with the hospital on the parking plan.

She said the hospital had its own travel action plan and was looking at on-site parking.

Te Whatu Ora Capital, Coast and Hutt Valley facilities & business service acting director Roger Palairet said officials were still looking at the possible impact of the parking plan on hospital patients and staff.

The parking plan will be out for public consultation on 12 September, alongside another proposal for new bike and bus lanes that would link Newtown and Island Bay.

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