Parking blow for John Hunter nurses and midwives
Lower Hunter nurses and midwives are angry and deflated over the NSW government’s decision to reinstate paid parking for staff at John Hunter Hospital.
Following the re-introduction of paid parking at metropolitan hospitals on 1 February, nurses and midwives began paying $20.90 a week for access to the hospital car park. As a result, essential healthcare workers will fork out more than $1700 in one year to park at work.
Given the cost-of-living crisis, lack of affordable housing and a surge in COVID-19 presentations, the decision to slap nurses and midwives with parking fees has been considered a major blow.
Members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) rallied outside the hospital in their own time today and called on the government to value the hard work of Hunter nurses and midwives by immediately revoking its decision.
NSWNMA John Hunter and John Hunter Children’s Hospital Branch Secretary, Matthew Rispen, said the government was wrong to compare John Hunter to other metropolitan hospitals, as the same public transport networks simply did not exist.
“Efficient public transport options around Newcastle and the Lower Hunter are extremely limited, especially outside traditional business hours. Many of our nurses and midwives work unsociable hours, including at night and on weekends, when public transport options are not available,” Mr Rispen said.
“John Hunter is also experiencing a significant upgrade, which has further increased traffic around the hospital and significantly affects parking availability, with around 150 staff parking spaces currently closed for construction works. These works are expected to continue for at least another 18 months.
“For day and afternoon shifts, nurses and midwives are arriving at least an hour prior to their shift in an attempt to secure a staff parking space, or risk being late for their shift. Meanwhile, on night shift, staff are still required to pay for parking in an almost empty car park.”
John Hunter Hospital has also been dealing with an influx of COVID-19 cases over recent months.
“We have seen an uptick in positive cases, resulting in a reintroduction of masks and an increase in staff on sick leave with COVID-19, meaning nurses and midwives are working short staffed or being asked to pick up overtime shifts,” Mr Rispen said.
“Nurses and midwives are being expected to return to pre-COVID times, financially, while still having to work with COVID-19, professionally.”
NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Michael Whaites, says the government’s decision to reintroduce paid parking for healthcare workers show a lack of regard and appreciation for the workforce.
“The below inflation 4% pay increase that public sector nurses and midwives received in 2023 is being clawed back by the government’s decision to rescind free parking,” said Mr Whaites.
“It isn’t right that our hardworking healthcare staff should be slugged these fees while trying to care for our community.”
“These car parking changes have the potential to further hinder recruitment and retention of health staff and we call on the NSW government to urgently reconsider this decision.”
“It has got everybody very upset because of the lack of parks, the time it takes to get in and out of the place and the boom gates don’t work.
They’re charging for a service that they don’t provide because there are not enough parks.
Especially in the last two weeks since schools gone back and universities gone back, we’re lining up from the main road to get in. Sometimes you can’t get into the lane to turn into John Hunter, you have to leave at least an hour earlier than you had to before. Getting home you’re often in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam for half an hour to an hour to actually even get to the main road.
People are already working overtime and longer shifts. In my department we’re on 24 hour call, people are coming and going at all hours of the day and night, and if you come in the middle of the day there are no parks.
We’ve had staff so frustrated, they’ve rung the manager and burst into tears, and just gone home because they can’t face the stress of continually driving around and around the car parks looking for a park.” NSWNMA John Hunter and John Hunter Children’s Hospital Branch Steward, Linda Mobbs.