Plan to charge hospital staff to park branded ‘financial injustice’

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A PLAN to charge staff for parking at Antrim Hospital is a step too far in Health Service efficiencies, MLA Oliver McMullan said this week.

The East Antrim Sinn Fein Assembly member urged Health Minister Edwin Poots to abandon the proposal after a constituent, who works at the hospital, complained it was “financial injustice” to force health staff to pay in a bid to recoup car park costs and use any additional revenue accrued to help fund frontline services.

“I already pay my income tax and national insurance contributions to fund NHS services and car parking facilities,” wrote the hospital worker in a letter to the MLA.

“It is grossly unacceptable that I should then be expected to provide additional funds from my own salary to, in effect, be reused to pay part of my own salary and bolster shortcomings in NHS funding,” complained the unnamed constituent.

We understand the Northern Health and Social Care Trust is in consultation with trade unions over the introduction of parking charges for staff at both Antrim and Coleraine’s Causeway Hospital, following precedents already set at all the main Belfast hospitals in recent years. A draft consultation document lays out various options including a one-charge-for-all levy that takes no account of salary, as well as scaled fees that take account of pay grades.

Mr McMullan said the move will have far-reaching consequences for around 160 people who live in the Larne and Newtownabbey areas and work at Antrim Hospital.

“These charges will have a detrimental effect on the people at the lowest end of the pay scale in the health service,” he claimed. “Already we have seen these people having their pensions raided and their pay frozen and now the Health Minister wants to impose a charge for them to come to work. These charges could force people out of the health service, as it would no longer be economically viable for many to remain at work.

“While I understand the financial problems associated with the health service, staff cannot be expected to supplement any lack of funding from the British Government. I have been contacted by a number of staff members who are concerned about these charges and I intend to raise this matter as a matter of urgency with the minister.”

The Larne Times has seen figures which indicate that staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital pay up to £230 a year in parking fees; a £78 flat rate at the City; up to £200 at the Mater; and £132 at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald.