PARKING charges at Antrim Hospital moved a step closer with the announcement that a traffic management scheme is to get underway next week.
The Northern Health Trust claim the hospital car park is being “abused” by some motorists, while Save the Mid Community Group accused the authority of “profiteering”.
The Trust said the new arrangements will help manage the flow of traffic and control parking at the hospital.
The Northern Trust launched the projects as part of its modernisation and reform programme in 2008.
Contractors, F P McCann will start work next Monday and the new systems should be completed and operational by the summer.
A Trust spokesman apologised for any inconvenience works will cause to hospital patients and visitors.
He said the contractors would make every effort to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum. Temporary arrangements will be clearly signposted.
“The traffic at our hospital sites has increased significantly in recent years and the work when complete will considerably improve traffic flow,” he continued.
“We plan to create 260 spaces on the Antrim Hospital site and as the main patient and visitor car park is in a poor state of repair, we also plan to completely resurface this. We will also create an additional 60 spaces at Causeway.
“Parking facilities at both our major hospitals have been abused in the past. We know of cases of hospital car parks being used by people with business elsewhere, people going shopping and, on one occasion, the car park at Antrim being used while the vehicle owner went on holiday for two weeks.
“We expect the introduction of paid parking to reduce this kind of unacceptable behaviour. The hourly parking rate is still under consideration by the Trust, but there will be exemptions for patients with a range of conditions and for some regular visitors.”
Save the Mid chairperson, Hugh McCloy, described the scheme as “ludricrous” given the lack of capital expenditutre with health on the basis of the current public consultation.
“Save the Mid are sick and saddened that capital which is needed for the provision of clinical services is being used for profiteering,” he said.
He claimed there were still a lot of issues about the number of disabled parking spaces and how the arrangements will affect the flow and proximity of public buses to and from the hospital.
Mr McCloy said according to a previous Trust chief executive the proposal was for 50p for the first hour and another 50p for the second hour with free parking in instances of cancer treatment and end of life treatment.
“There was no that persons using private transport to deliver emergency patients will not be charged,” he stressed.