Hospital parking: staff should take 'bus or glider - how do you think the rest of us get to our work?' - Nuala McCann
LIKE Shakespeare’s stages of life, there are stages of love.
The years drift by and one day your love arrives with the breakfast tray and says: “Good morning, how’s ‘Angry, South Belfast’?”
It’s oh so true. This anger is a snake in the guts. Along with my glasses, my keys, my latest tablets, I appear to have misplaced my inner Zen.
The anger uncoiled in my belly back in September when the students returned from bohemian adventures in Greece and Berlin and parked in a bohemian fashion in every nook and cranny in south Belfast. If there were a Kama Sutra of parking positions, they cracked it.
In the halcyon summer days, parking was a breeze. Now, it’s a nightmare.
I lurk in the car on illegal corners of Stranmillis and block driveways just to get to the chemist.
“I actually live on this street,” a driver told me as he tried to manoeuvre his way into a space.
“I just really need my meds,” I told him.
The parking problems that used to be the preserve of the Markets – remember that shameful photo of a coffin being passed over the tops of a tight row of commuter cars – are now becoming ours. Commuters abandon their cars for the day on our streets and bus into town because it is cheaper.
But it’s the Royal Victoria Hospital that makes my blood boil. When BBC News NI published a story revealing that 80% of the parking spaces in the visitors’ car park were taken by hospital staff, the smoke came out of my ears.
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I arrived at said visitors’ car park recently for an appointment at 8.30am on a weekday morning. Surely at 8.15am, we reasoned, there would have to be free spaces in the visitors’ car park.
“If I’m struggling at 8.15am what do all the other patients with appointments do?” I said to Mr not-at-all angry, South Belfast.
We are acquainted with the hospital car parks of Belfast. The best is the Mater – £1 a time, a view of the jail and never an issue. The City has a high rise if you get stuck.
Musgrave Park can be packed, but it is never utterly horrendous. The RVH is a nightmare.
After the news story, people reacted on X, formerly Twitter. My heart went out to the poor woman in the story who could not be with her dying father because she couldn’t get a space. Others were not so understanding.
There were those on X who argued that staff were busy saving lives and that was more important than visitors.
“We pay our £5, we should be free to park the same as anyone else,” someone said.
Someone else asked what staff were supposed to do... teleport in? Well no, but maybe a bus or a glider – how do you think the rest of us get to our work?
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Having driven around for at least an hour looking for a place; having parked the car up the back of the Falls and walked in; having been in queues chewing my knuckles at being late for an important appointment, the question is what are patients meant to do?
And while I appreciate the hardy patients who can nip up on a bicycle or park far away and dander over, that option is not open to all who are ill or frail.
I even posted my view. I stopped short of saying that if there were no patients then the staff could go whistle… or that a hospital that has no provision for patients is like a supermarket with no parking spaces for customers.
In the end, it’s a management issue. And that is my rant.
That is why my spouse calls me “Angry, South Belfast” and frankly, I don’t give a damn.