Workers at the General Hospital are fuming as the City of Regina considers installing parking meters nearby.
“I think it’s just one more nail in the coffin for our parking situation,” said Karly Simpson, a nurse in the neonatal unit at the hospital.
Last week, the city administration released its proposed budget for the 2019 year. It included $60,000 to install parking meters near the General Hospital. It’s estimated the meters would bring in about $80,000 to the city in 2019.
The parking situation at the hospital has been a big problem for years, with reports of piles of parking tickets and workers being attacked as they walk to their cars.
The president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses said it’s already hard enough for workers at the hospital to find parking: they’re not allowed to use the visitor parking within certain hours, and the waiting list for staff parking is hundreds of names long.
There is a park and ride system available, but for many, it doesn’t run within the times they’re at the hospital. So workers often end up having to park on the street, where the parking limit is two hours.
Simpson is one of them. She said healthcare workers usually don’t have the luxury of being able to go out every two hours to move their vehicles.
“If somebody is dying, or somebody needs us to code them, or a baby is being born we can’t just be like ‘oh hold up, I’ll do this when I come back.'”
So they will get parking tickets – sometimes four in a 12-hour shift, which can add up to $150 according to Simpson.
She usually parks in one of the dozen-or-so untimed parking spots fairly far away from the hospital and walks to work. Recently all those spots were taken so she had to park on the street.
“That whole day I just constantly had in the back of my head, ‘okay it’s 10 o’clock, I ‘gotta go move it at 12, then I ‘gotta go move it at two, I ‘gotta go move it at four,'” explained Simpson. “It takes your head out of the game completely and our patients don’t deserve that.”
She said it affects patient care greatly when workers have to be out moving their vehicles for up to an hour each day.
The budget unveiled last week is preliminary, so city council and the public are able to have a look at it and offer their opinions to councilors beforehand or bring a presentation to the council’s budget meeting on Dec 10th.
The nurses’ union said it’s considering speaking to the City of Regina about the proposal in the budget, and about the parking situation in general.
Simpson said she’s planning to contact the city and MLAs to let them know this is a bad idea.
Simpson thinks a parkade for employees would be the ideal answer to this problem, but she said it doesn’t look like that’s in the cards. She has others suggestions for right now: making changes to the park and ride program or exempting workers from the two-hour parking limit.
“We’re not expecting anything free, we’d be fine even paying a fee … we’re not expecting special treatment, but at the same time our job is just a little different than everybody else’s,” said Simpson.