Mum rages over 'unsafe' hospital parking rule as fed-up Aussies demand change

Parking rules at hospitals are keeping visitors away and advocacy groups argue it is detrimental to a patient's health.

Family members and hospital staff are reaching breaking point over parking rules at hospitals that are forcing people to put their loved ones at risk, as patient advocacy groups argue preventing visitors from parking could be 'detrimental’ to a patient’s recovery.

A Sydney mother said her daughter was faced with a “mighty fierce and intimidating gremlin” of a parking inspector and threatened with a $92 fine when the young woman went to pick up her unwell father from day surgery at Campbelltown Hospital in the city’s southwest.

She parked outside the front entrance where there was a no stopping sign, allowing vehicles to set down and pick up passengers for no more than 10 minutes — however the driver must remain within the vehicle, or they’ll be hit with a fine.

Parking signs outside Campbelltown Hospital in southwest Sydney.
Kathleen Mallia said there was no safe way to pick up her unwell husband up from Campbelltown Hospital. Source: Facebook

"Hospital staff directed that it was OK to leave the car with the hazards on,” Kathleen Mallia told Yahoo News Australia, indicating that employees were encouraging visitors to ignore the sign. “They weren’t aware the parking fellow was there apparently.

“There’s another area just up from the front entrance called the pick-up lounge, but it’s the same deal. Drivers can’t leave the car, however patients can’t leave the hospital without an escort and staff can’t escort.”

The parking and pick-up dilemma

With Kathleen’s daughter by herself, she was stuck between a rock and a hard place. “To make our situation worse, on that day my hubby was unwell, it was raining and he couldn’t be left alone on a seat while the car was retrieved from the open air car park, so he had to walk to the car in the rain,” she explained. “That in itself was very unsafe.

“I get people abuse the pick-up area, but for those who genuinely need it, it’s not ideal. There just needs to be a better system and the higher ups at the hospital need to sort it out, because $92 is a lot if you don’t have it.”

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, a spokesperson for Campbelltown Hospital said there are sign-posted parking zones reserved for the settling down and picking up of patients.

“Restricted parking is necessary in these drop-off/pick-up zones to allow for the high volume of vehicles and ensure a smooth flow of traffic. As a result, fines may apply in these restricted parking zones.

“We encourage anyone who has difficulty picking up a patient with frailty or mobility issues to speak to a ward’s nurse unit manager so arrangements can be made.”

An aerial shot of Campbelltown Hospital
A spokesperson for Campbelltown Hospital encouraged anyone who has difficulty picking up a patient with frailty or mobility issues to speak to a ward’s nurse unit manager so arrangements can be made. Source: Google Maps

Parking issues can impact on patient care

Amid a climate of rising costs similar issues are being felt at hospitals around the country.

“We're increasingly hearing from our members and patients across the state that people are finding it more difficult to park, particularly at busy metropolitan hospitals, and to find affordable parking,” Dr Anthony Brown, the Executive Director at Health Consumers NSW, told Yahoo News Australia.

“People are also often going to quite extraordinary lengths when dropping people off at hospitals by parking quite some distance away, and then waiting for the person that they dropped off to call them so that they can go back to the hospital in order to avoid the parking fines.”

With parking difficulties preventing people from visiting, not having a loved one with a patient in hospital can be detrimental to their health.

“If a family member is worried that they can't stay because the parking fee is about to tick over to another $10, or they're not there because they're driving around looking for a park, that's actually impacting on a person's care,” Dr Brown explained.

“The thing that we need to remember about visitors, is that visitors aren’t just people who come into hospital to break up the boredom from people who are in hospital.

“Visitors, particularly family members, are a really important part of people’s recovery. So if we’re talking about a family member who might be a carer for somebody with dementia or a disability, who really knows that person and knows how to communicate with them in ways that strangers may not know, that person can really make sure that the patient is better understood and gets the treatment that they need.”

So what can be done to improve hospital parking?

For starters, you can write to your local MP, suggested Professor Gigi Foster, from the School of Economics at the University of NSW.

“If you want change, you’ve got to put your pen where your interests are,” she told Yahoo News Australia. “Write to your members of parliament or maybe have pickets or something and demonstrate that this is not acceptable.

“Because the people making those decisions about the hospital and about how much parking there is, they are supposed to be representing the interests of the Australian people. They're not supposed to be representing the interests of the pharmaceutical companies, for example, or the people who are staffing the Department of Health.

“It's supposed to be for the good of Australia so Australians have to speak up and say what their interests are.”

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