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.’