Hospital takes scalpel to free car parking

By Mike Dinsdale

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Whangarei Hospital will start charging for car parking from the end of this year and a multi-storey paid carpark could also be built on the Maunu Rd site.

Northland District Health Board (NDHB), which runs the hospital, has approved in principle paid car parking to ensure that it can continue to provide adequate secure parking in a controlled environment.

Board chief executive Nick Chamberlain said the decision to introduce paid car parking might not go down well with some, but it was in line with DHBs of a similar size including Mid Central, Hawke's Bay and Hutt Valley. Paid car parking at Whangarei Hospital will start in late 2013.

"We have been struggling to provide enough public car parking on the Whangarei Hospital campus for some years," Dr Chamberlain said.

"In addition to the current shortfall of car parking for patients and their relatives, there are proposed changes to Maunu Rd's free parking, which is going to impact on staff and further increase the demand for parking".

There are 1060 car parks at the hospital and by 2026 it will require another 300. The DHB wants to build new multimillion-dollar building at Whangarei Hospital to bring the 300 staff it has working at seven sites around Whangarei on to the main hospital campus.

Dr Chamberlain said redevelopment of the Whangarei campus was going to have an impact on the amount of parking that will be available.

"The new maternity wing, laboratory, cancer centre and staff administration block developments mean that we need to redesign parking facilities and roading. It is intended that staff will continue to have access to some free car parking, located in a designated area, with appropriate safe walkways to the campus," he said.

"We will also be exploring alternative modes of transport to reduce the demand for car parking."

During the next few months the DHB will consult with staff and the public and research what parking solutions are available.

DHB director of strategic projects Brett Halverson said any paid car parking would have to be self-funding and all options were on the table.

Mr Halverson said the board would ask for expressions of interest from anybody keen to get involved in providing paid parking. "It could be anything from somebody selling us parking equipment, like pay and display machines and barrier arms, to somebody coming in to run the paid parking through to somebody building and running a multi-storey carpark," he said.

The preferred site for any multi-storey building was the public carpark that now borders Maunu Rd, between the hospital's theatre/ICU block and administration block.

Dr Chamberlain said although introducing paid parking might not be a popular decision, it was one that needed to be made.

"Revenue from paid car parking will help fund the additional carparks and roading changes. It will also allow us to save our very scarce capital funds for improving and renewing our clinical buildings and continue to allow us to grow and develop clinical services in an increasingly tight fiscal environment."

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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