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December 4, 2021

Lismore hospital parking fiasco ‘Dowell’s legacy’

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Cars legally and illegally parked in Diadem Street. Photo Lismore City Council
Cars legally and illegally parked in Diadem Street. Photo Lismore City Council

Chris Dobney

Update:  Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell has rejected claims that she is leaving behind a legacy of overpriced paid parking around the town’s Base Hospital, seeing hospital workers parking out quiet residential streets.

Lismore City Council parking rangers are about to embark on a blitz around Lismore Base Hospital, bringing tensions with hospital staff to boiling point.

An HSU spokesperson told Echonetdaily the controversial parking situation at the hospital as ‘the mayor’s legacy’.

‘She’s resigning at the end of this term; she doesn’t care,’ he said of mayor Jenny Dowell, whose council signed an agreement with the health department to implement the charges.

But Mayor Dowell, who is not contesting the upcoming election, says she still takes her job as seriously ‘as if I was continuing in the role’, adding that ‘we have to balance the needs of residents, employees and visitors to the hospital’.

‘The last thing we want to see is a return to the bad old days of people parking all over the place with no respect for residents,’ she said.

A council spokesperson said the enforcement action was necessary after complaints from residents that cars were being parked in haphazard fashion and across driveways in areas around the hospital.

And council is pointing the finger directly at hospital staff avoiding new metered parking areas in the streets immediately adjacent to the hospital.

The Health Services Union argues, however, that the blitz is an attempt to penalize its members, who are boycotting the new paid parking because of the council’s ‘inflated’ charges.

The council says it has received ‘numerous complaints from residents about people parking in residential areas and not complying with parking laws’.

‘The complaints relate to people parking across driveway access, parking on corners where they restrict sight lines at intersections, and cars being parked with their nose on the road carriageway,’ a council spokesperson said.

The affected streets include parts of Diadem, Orion, McKenzie and Hunter Streets.

‘Recent parking changes implemented around the hospital recognised that some people would park further out from the hospital to avoid paid parking. However, it was expected that these people would park in accordance with the NSW road rules,’ the spokesperson said.

‘Some of these parking rules are being ignored, and that has an adverse impact on the amenity of residents and reduces safety for all road users. The road rules apply to everyone.’

The council has gone so far as to supply media with photographs of the ‘non-compliant’ parking situation in Diadem Street but, according HSU spokesperson Shane Jobberns, there is no evidence that the offenders are hospital workers.

Workers pay $3/hr

When the new multi-storey car park opened at the hospital, just 400 parking spaces were reserved for staff at just $12/week.

According to the HSU the bulk of those went to permanent staff, leaving 1,200 staff, including most of the union’s comparatively lower paid casual and part-time members, to park on the street.

But as part of the council’s memorandum of understanding with the health department, it placed parking meters in the streets immediately around the hospital charging staff and hospital visitors a $3/hour to park.

Mr Jobberns described it as ‘a money grabbing exercise’.

He said the union had sympathy for local residents.

‘The president of our branch is a resident of the area, so we recognise the situation,’ he said.

‘All the people who suffer are the residents and the people who work around there. And we’ve met them [the residents] on a couple of occasions to jointly battle council over what they’ve done.

He added the union had held ‘a couple of meetings with our members emphasizing don’t park across driveways and don’t make it hard for residents.

‘This doesn’t just affect the workers at the hospital; it affects every visitor that comes to the hospital.

‘If you’ve got to rush, you’ve got a child inside the hospital, imagine the last thought you’ve got on your mind is about parking. You park your car, pay the meter and go into Emergency.

‘Now we all know how long Emergency takes in hospitals, four hours later that person’s up for quite a lot of money,’ Mr Jobberns said.

But Mayor Dowell said, ‘I’m hearing that patients and visitors  are loving that they can park within easy walking distance of the hospital.’

She added there would be ‘no fuss if people park respectfully and correctly.’

‘The union needs to work with employers [the department of health] to resolve their problems, not throw mud at councillors.’

 


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5 COMMENTS

  1. Chris You called at 9.19am when I was in a meeting. I called you back immediately I finished less than an hour later. I left a message and you didn’t call back.

  2. It’s a total disgrace. All parking for hospital staff and patients and their visitors should be free. Hospitals are not places of entertainment, they provide care for people who are ill. They and their families shouldn’t have to pay parking fees that can run into double figures due to waiting times. Same goes for the staff who care for them.

  3. I am glad I have now retired from the Health Service! This parking issue is a complete fiasco. When the parking station was proposed, I suggested to the project Supervisor that this would be a good project to fund locally & suggested that a meeting of local business people be invited to tender (much like the LCC solar project, which has been a sell out success).
    Instead we have been put into the clutches of a parking station conglomerate whose only motive is to strip as much profit as possible out of our local community. This parking station is way too small, & only replaces the free parking that was previously on site. I have also perused the signed agreement between the LCC & the NSW LHD, that like many recent government documents gags staff from talking about the rip off that has been inflicted on our residents & the staff of LBH. I do not blame the staff for using local streets. The imposition of these unrealistic parking charges in the local streets is an act of piracy. For an employee to park in the metered area would be a cost in real terms of a reasonable discount to wages. (to add insult to the LBH staff, the ballot for parking was redrawn with part time staff excluded, possibly because some key management staff missed out on the first ballot!)
    What we need to remember is that there is no public transport in our area, so LBH staff must supply their own transport to work. (In the major cities, a large proportion of staff travel to work by public transport, so do not pay unreasonable parking fees).

    When I spoke to one of the councillors about the agreement, I was told that the reason the charges around the hospital are so high is because the parking station must be profitable so the owners can afford to build the second stage. My answer to that was the parking station should be forced to compete,& if it couldn’t, it could be purchased at a firesale price so everyone wins!

    Hopefully the new council will reverse the decision on the paid street parking, & that everyone puts pressure on the health minister to supply more on-site LBH parking for staff (that was removed when the new parking station opened).

    regards,
    A Concerned citizen.

  4. Is the problem really that the Council and the Health Department entered into a contract with a private profit-making car park company who have no interest in our local community? Was there any consultation with hospital staff and our local community about how the deal was done? The paid parking situation is just appalling for staff and almost as much so for our community. Where there is a profit to be made there will never be a good outcome for the community.

  5. Mayor Dowell, said ‘we have to balance the needs of residents, employees and visitors to the hospital’. No, a big part of your job is to ensure that the community can continue to access essential services such as the hospital with as little stress as possible. Not to implement paid street parking around the hospital. Nor rubber stamp the building of a privately owned and operated parking block to fleece the sick, their families and medical staff.

    Mayor Dowel also said, ‘I’m hearing that patients and visitors are loving that they can park within easy walking distance of the hospital.’ To be frank, it sounds like the Mayor inhabits a bubble of privilege and is surrounded by sycophants. In the real world many cannot afford parking fees and most think paid hospital paid parking is a disgrace. As a recent patient, I can tell the Mayor that paid parking caused me additional stress prior to a medical procedure. In the end I took a taxi. At the time I laid responsibility squarely at your door.

    Mayor Dowel, it’s no good dressing yourself up as a progressive humanitarian type. You should be aware paid parking at the hospital and all the stress and unhappiness it will cause the most disadvantaged members of the community will be your enduring legacy. Own it

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