Car park 'too difficult to use'
A Manawatu advocacy group has criticised the Palmerston North Hospital's paid parking system for being too difficult for disabled patients and visitors to use.
The Disabled Persons' Assembly says there have been numerous complaints about the parking system, particularly about the distance patients and visitors need to walk to pay for parking, and the obstacles in their way.
MidCentral District Health Board introduced the paid parking system last February - a decision that dismayed many staff members, visitors, patients and nearby residents.
The board has defended the system and says older and less mobile people have had their needs considered with a 15-minute grace period after payment and a shuttle service to car parks.
Palmerston North man Colin Hoare told the Manawatu Standard he experienced the inconvenience of the parking system when he had to walk about 100 metres, and across a grass verge, on crutches, to get to the parking kiosk.
By the time he made it, he owed another dollar, and had to go back to his car for more change. Mr Hoare said he was happy to pay, but the kiosks were not in obvious locations, and were too far apart.
"Whoever designed their car park didn't design it for people on crutches."
Disabled Persons' Assembly co-ordinator Delysse Kennard said she had received complaints from many patients and visitors. "People are just finding it too difficult."
The scarcity of pay booths, the lack of assistance, and the obstacles, such as kerbs, made it hard for disabled people to make their way to a pay kiosk, she said.
MidCentral commercial support services group manager Jeff Small said parking attendants at the front of the hospital had a clear view of the main disability parks and readily helped people in difficulty.
The hospital offers a free car-park shuttle to help visitors and patients get to and from their cars, but this service runs only Monday to Friday, 9am until 4pm.
There is also an intercom service where people can ask for help.
"Pay machines and barriers were designed to allow minimal effort for both able-bodied and disabled persons," Mr Small said.
Ms Kennard said more assistance, and wheelchair-accessible pedestrian access to parking kiosks around the hospital grounds could help.
People were willing to pay for their parking, but the system at the Palmerston North Hospital was "not accessible".
The car park needed to be accessible to everyone, especially in a region with an ageing population, and where two out of five people had some form of disability.
She also proposed extending free parking from 30 minutes to an hour.
"Most appointments last at least an hour," she said.
Mr Small said 70 per cent of parking users were gone within 30 minutes.
"Given this, a change to the free parking period is not warranted."
The Manawatu Standard