A Cleveland resident and former council candidate is calling for free parking to be reinstated at Redland Hospital, saying it is “illogical” to be charging fees across all areas of the campus while households are struggling through the cost-of-living crisis.
Residents have also lashed out at the move, with a number of comments posted online slamming the impact paid parking is having on patients – particularly those who are already under financial stress.
Callen Sorensen Karklis, who ran for council in 2020, launched a change.org petition in August calling on local MPs and Health Minister Shannon Fentiman to reintroduce public parking at the hospital.
More than 140 people have backed the campaign so far, with a few dozen supporters also leaving comments on the petition website condemning the decision to slug patients and staff.
New fees were introduced across the campus, including in areas that were previously free, when the state government’s multi-storey car park opened to the public in early April. The move has resulted in patients and visitors having to fork out $13 per day, while staff are offered a discounted rate of $7.95.
The issue has now spilled over to Wellington Street, where patients and staff have resorted to parking along either side of the road to avoid being charged at the hospital gates.
Mr Sorensen Karklis said he had decided to launch the petition after experiencing parking issues first-hand during a recent visit to the hospital.
“A friend and I were helping out another friend who has a disability and we had to duck into the hospital to assist him with the wheelchair,” he said.
“What occurred is us having to park down the road like probably many of the patients and staff.
“I think having a level of public car parking would not be unreasonable.
“What’s happening there now just isn’t good enough.”
Bayside Health Service executive director Greg Nolan said parking fees had been set by the state government and were designed to be as “fair and reasonable” as possible, with discounts available for staff, eligible patients and their carers.
“Volunteer parking is free and concession information is available online which provides discounted parking for people experiencing financial hardship, who need to attend hospital frequently, who attend for an extended period of time or who have special needs and require assistance,” Mr Nolan said.
“The car park is owned and operated by Redland Hospital, which means every dollar collected from parking rates is invested in capital repayments, operations, maintenance and improvements of the car park.”
So far almost 1000 parking passes have been issued to hospital staff and more than 50 per cent of employees have elected to salary sacrifice, meaning their parking fees are paid before tax.
The discounted staff fees are based on an annualised rate divided into 26 fortnightly payments and includes all periods of leave, resulting in payments continuing while staff are away from work.
However, special consideration is given to staff who need to take maternity leave, long-term sick leave and long service leave.
Pay-as-you go options are also available to employees on casual contracts.