Monday March 30th 2020
The visitor car park at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary before the Covid-19 crisis.
Christine Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, has called on the private company, Consortium Healthcare, which owns the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary building to allocate part of the visitor car parks for staff use, following the announcement that parking would be made free for staff for a period of three months following a payment of almost £1m from the Scottish Government to Consortium to allow this. She understands that the company has also contributed to the costs which is to be welcomed.
Consortium own the ERI building and parking lots due to a PFI contract agreed under the previous Labour Executive. This essentially places the NHS as tenants of the building which allows Consortium to charge for parking on site to raise additional income, in contrast to sites owned by the NHS where the Scottish Government has abolished parking charges.
The Scottish Government successfully negotiated with Consortium and agreed to pay £1m to facilitate the company suspending charges for staff during the Covid-19 crisis to ensure key workers could continue to commute, particularly in light of reduced public transport services.
However staff have reported that it is only the staff car park which is now open, with empty visitor car parks (visiting at ERI is suspended except in exceptional circumstances) cordoned off and guarded by Consortium staff, leaving a shortage of available spaces and queues out of the hospital grounds on to Old Dalkeith Road.
Currently the barrier on the staff car park is still down, to get free parking staff have to show ID to Consortium workers and be let in one by one before moving to the barrier and getting a ticket which has seen large queues.
The staff car park is a 10-15min walk from wards, which involves staff walking past the closer cordoned off, guarded empty visitor car parks.
Ms Grahame, who has a number of constituents who are NHS staff and commute to the hospital, said:
“I was delighted to hear an agreement had been reached with Consortium to suspend parking charges for NHS staff – something the Scottish Government cannot do without the companies agreement due to the PFI contract in place. I don’t agree with them being made to pay to park at any time, but particularly in the current crisis it’s imperative they can get to and from work as easily as possible and shouldn’t face financial hardship for doing so.
“While the company has contributed to the costs of suspending charges, it may be cock-up rather than conspiracy which has led to cordoning off the entire visitor car park to staff despite empty spaces. There are barely any visitors to ERI due to visiting mostly being suspended so why not give these extra spaces to staff to ease congestion in the staff car park? That to me would seem to be in the spirit of the agreement reached.
“This may of course been a simple miscommunication, but I’d ask Consortium to look at rectifying this at the earliest possible opportunity. Our frontline NHS workers should be able to get into work without sitting in queues for an age, they have far more important jobs to be doing.”Tweet Share on Facebook