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Paid parking at hospital inevitable but so is push for exemptions

Warren Morrison wears at least three hats, metaphorically speaking: one as a Campbelltown councillor, another as a businessman and a third as the chairman of the 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer Macarthur.

The third hat requires him to frequently go to Campbelltown Hospital to talk to doctors and nurses and how 24 Hour can help.

Which means he’s somewhat of an expert on hospital parking issues.

And while Cr Morrison, who is pictured at the free car park, welcomes the provision of more parking spaces at the hospital from next year, he’s not happy that it will mean the end of free parking that’s always been available near the main entrance.

“When I first heard about the $630 million redevelopment of the hospital I was very excited about it,’’ says Cr Morrison.

“Then I was invited to the hospital to listen to a talk about the expansion plans, and the first question I asked was about the parking.

“And the hospital administration people said, oh, there’s going to be a seven storey car parking building, and it’s all going to be great.

“And me being a business person I had some questions about money, and asked: so that’s going to be part of the $632 million allocated for the redevelopment?

“And straight away the answer was, no, no, that’s going to be separate.

“So I said, how is it going to be paid for – and that’s when the penny dropped, paid parking for patients, visitors and staff would be coming to Campbelltown Hospital from 2020,’’ he said.

Cr Morrison raised the issue at a council meeting and enlisted the support of other councillors to let the state government and the health minister know that Campbelltown did not support paid parking at the hospital.

Council made its position crystal clear in a letter to the health minister, Brad Hazzard, late last year, telling him paid parking “would hurt hard working residents on low wages and also have an adverse effect in attracting doctors and nurses to the hospital in the future’’.

The council also pointed out that the level of private car use at Campbelltown was higher than any other hospital in Sydney – “because of geography, the rural area it serves across the Macarthur region, and the lack of public transport compared to inner city hospitals, so should be judged differently from them.’’

In response, Mr Hazzard pointed out that the seven storey car park station being built at Campbelltown will provide 800 spaces and that it was state government policy to charge for parking.

The health minister said that there were several exemptions, including for patients who go to the hospital more than twice a week and concession card holders.

“Car park fees fund construction and the operation of car parking stations at hospitals,’’ he told council.

This was all part of a new state government policy introduced in 2013 for metropolitan hospitals undergoing redevelopment.

However, unlike a toll road, hospital carparks will collect fees long after the cost of construction has been recouped.

“That’s why I don’t agree with it and don’t like the idea that a hospital car park building becomes a bit of a cash cow for the state government,’’ says Cr Morrison.

“Look, I accept that not everyone wants to drive around to find a parking spot at a hospital, so it works from that point of view having a lot more parking available.

“I just think Campbelltown and the people of the Macarthur region deserve better,’’ he says.

“Unfortunately for people who can’t afford it and come to emergency more often they will be the ones hit by the introduction of paid parking.

“And that’s why I’d like to see some exemptions for emergency cases, and I’ve already asked, what can we do, and they just keep coming back, this is the state policy, sorry, nothing we can do

“We can’t change the policy, but we can ask for more exemptions, and certainly emergency cases is one such area,’’ says Cr Morrison.

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