BY KENJI SATO
Hundreds of hospital workers gathered outside of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA) on Tuesday, 17 November, to protest against a loss of hospital parking spaces.
Three weeks ago, hospital staff were told that their multistorey car park would be privatised and run by private operator Secure Parking.
Under the new management, parking fees doubled from $2.50 to $5 per day, and staff were told that 600 out of 1200 parking spaces would be closed to make way for construction.
In its place, the NSW Government has promised to build another 1000 multi-storey car park, but Eleanor Romney, the RPA branch delegate of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, said this would not meet the hospital’s needs.
“RPA has had a long standing critical shortage of staff car parking,” she told protesters outside the hospital.
“We have had a wait list for parking that consists of 1500 people and the average time on that wait list is four years. Staff without parking routinely arrive at work one or even more hours early to patrol the street of Camperdown looking for those precious untimed parking spots.”
The majority of the parking spaces around the streets of Camperdown and Newtown are either residential parking spaces or one to two hour parking spaces.
Darren Jenkins, president of community group Friends of Erskineville, warned that the lack of hospital parking spaces would deter people from working there.
“It’s a public health and safety issue. If RPA can’t get the most qualified and most talented healthcare professionals to work here, that affects the community,” he told City Hub at the protest.
“Friends of Erskineville is supportive of public transport solutions, but it isn’t always a practical solution for healthcare professionals who work around the clock. That’s why we’re here in support.”
Brett Holmes, the General Secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives association, said that more than 2000 staff relied on car parking.
“We call upon the NSW Minister for Health, the Premier and the Local Health District to actually get together and find a better solution than simply a long term promise of building a 1000 place car park, which is inadequate to solve this issue. They need to commit to providing 3500 car parking spaces here at RPA,” Mr Holmes said.
“Our survey found that 62% of our members experienced turning up late for work because of the inability to access car parking. That means patients are missing out on care.”
“We even hear of people having to turn up at 5:30am for a 7am shift to ensure they get a car park. That’s an atrocious situation to be in. That’s not fair, and it’s not reasonable.”
The protest was attended by members of the Health Services Union and Unions NSW.
Jarrod Hayes, the secretary of the Health Services Union, said that he was disappointed, but not surprised, at the decision.
“You can see what happens when these privatisation issues come out. You don’t get the service, and you pay more for it,” he said at the protest.
“What we need to be doing as a community of Newtown and the inner west is to come together and say ‘this is not acceptable’. It is not acceptable that people who finish a shift at 11 or 12 at night, have to make their way three or four kilometres in the dark to get on a train and get home, bearing in mind that some of these people live out west.”
“These things are not acceptable in this day and age. We’ve got a hospital over here that has been planned over many years. Why has proper parking not been planned? It’s been an absolute lack of foresight going forward,” he told the crowd.
“We will stand united with every other union on this site, we will stand united with the community of this area and we will fight this until we win this. And it is only us who can win this because if we do not bring this to the government, they will not do anything.
Emma Maiden, the Assistant Secretary for Unions NSW, said that the push to privatise the hospital’s car parking was part of the government’s long-term ‘privatisation agenda’.
“We see this as part of a broader ideological agenda in relation to workers. We are seeing attacks left right and centre whether it be car parking or penalty rates.”