Ratepayers asked to fund DHB car park

By Sam Hurley, Lawrence Gullery


Hawke's Bay District Health Board hopes to solve its parking woes via a ratepayer-funded $400,000 grant to build 120 extra car spaces around the Hastings hospital.

The DHB has written to the Hawke's Bay Regional Council asking for it to consider a proposal to fund the additional car parks as a one-off capital cost.

The letter was written by DHB chairman Kevin Atkinson as a submission to the regional council's annual plan. He would present the DHB's case to the annual plan hearing later this month. Submissions closed on Friday and were expected to be released publicly today.

Mr Atkinson said he understood the request may be considered an unusual one but the regional council's responsibility was regional transport. The DHB believed that included the transport needs of people trying to access the hospital and its services.

"We understand the regional council provides buses to the hospital every 30 minutes but that doesn't service all of the geographic population using services at the hospital.

"We have people travelling from Wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay to the hospital and are frustrated they have to drive around and around to find a park. We also have had complaints to some extent from outpatients as well."

Hawke's Bay Regional Council Chairman Fenton Wilson said he was interested and fascinated to hear the debate and discussion but would not comment further without seeing the proposal in more detail.

"The ratepayer doesn't usually put in extra for taxpayer investments without a good reason," he said.

"The regional council does supply a bus service, so the rate payer does contribute already."

Hastings district councillor Hospital parking debate

Simon Nixon said there was definitely a need for a carpark expansion at the hospital but that rate payers should not be the ones forking out.

"They receive $1.5m a day in funding, and I know most of that goes towards medical costs, but in the end $400,000 is a pretty minor sum for them."

He said if ratepayers were forced to pay it would be a huge imposition on people who were already struggling in tough economic times.

A transport engineer identified five locations around the hospital where extra parking spaces could be created and a rough cost estimate was $400,000.

Mr Atkinson said "The board has looked at paid parking previously as you know but decided against it for a number of reasons. One of those is the impact it would have on staff morale at a time when we're being asked by the government to cut out costs by $15.5m.

"To achieve that we need staff will."

Mr Atkinson said government spending on health was already "at the top level" and it was unlikely the Ministry of Health would provide more money for car parks.

"The ministry allocates funding to the board and let's the board decide how it should be put to use. The board is not in a position to take out $400,000 for parking at the expense of health services, or meeting the government's request to cut costs."

Mr Atkinson said the board put out the paid parking proposal to tender and the cheapest operator would cost $790,000 per year.

"There would be $760,000 of that money going out of the region (to the operator). What we are saying is the alternative could be that we take $400,000 as a regional investment to provide the parking the hospital needs.

"Really the only other option is the status quo."

Central Hawke's Bay and Wairoa district councils had also written letters supporting the DHB's proposal.

The Hawke's Bay District Health Board rejected a controversial proposal to introduce paid car parking at their facilities in February this year. The proposal to charge visitors, patients and staff to park at Hawke's Bay Hospital, the Napier Health Centre and DHB corporate offices was met with fierce reaction when raised last year. More than 600 staff petitioned against the proposal, citing the one-size-fits-all charges as "unfair" for the range of salaries paid to cleaners, cooks, nurses, doctors and executives.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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