Westmead Hospital nurses, doctors threaten to quit over NSW-wide staff parking fees

Daily Telegraph, 30 January 2024

Nurses at Sydney’s largest hospital are threatening to quit after the scrapping of free parking that will see them hundreds of dollars out of pocket amid a cost-of-living crisis.

Healthcare workers – including “shoddily-treated” nurses at Sydney’s largest hospital – are threatening to quit after parking fees that will see them fork out hundreds of dollars for a spot amid a cost-of-living crisis.
Westmead Hospital healthcare workers, including cleaners, professor, doctors and nurses, will be slugged $11 a day to park at the state’s largest hospital from February – when the exemption introduced during Covid is lifted.

From April 2020, the then-Liberal government waived parking fees to support healthcare workers as a temporary measure during the pandemic.

But the return of paid parking has sparked fury across Sydney hospitals including Concord where staff walked off the job on Wednesday.

At RPA staff will be slapped with fees of $23 a day.

Rises are expected to impact 3000 healthcare workers across the Western Sydney Health District, which includes Westmead – Sydney’s largest hospital – and one of the Southern Hemisphere’s busiest trauma centres.

Staff who can secure parking permits will pay a capped fee of $27.20 a week at Westmead. But while that saves more than $22 a week, a parking spot is not guaranteed.

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association Westmead branch secretary Tim Blofield said nurses were being treated “pretty shoddily’’ and some workers had been on a waiting list for a permit for eight years.

“The list is poorly managed, at best,’’ he said.

“We’re out of the fire and back into the pan.’’

The perioperative nurse lashed out at the outsourced parking scheme and labelled it the “incorrect move for such a vital hospital” which offered several exclusive services.

“There are only things you can do only at Westmead so they have a captive market so why not rort it?,’’ he said.

Fears are growing among staff that their safety is also at an increased risk.

“People have parked at Wentworthville shopping centre or are parking at Parramatta Park or park at Cumberland (Hospital),’’ Mr Blofield said.

“Often are these people from suburbs where there isn’t access to public transport, but these are people who have shifts that often finish at dodgy times when people don’t want to be out and about.’’

The Health Services Union is negotiating a $12.50 weekly parking rate but NSWMA members continue to lobby for free parking.

HSU NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said a failure to provide services for workers was a social indictment and would trigger resignations.

“People are looking for ways to make ends meet and people are looking at every dollar now,’’ he said.

“Our members are making decisions about where they’re working.

“If they can rein in travel costs, if they can rein in parking costs by working closer to home and change industries, they’ll do it.’’

He said the parking fees would negate the 4.5 per cent pay rise secured last year, meaning nurses would lose 1.5 per cent because of the increases.

However, it is understood free parking is crowding out members of the public across the state including complaints over illegally parked cars surrounding Mt Druitt Hospital and elderly patients being forced to cancel vital specialist appointments because of no parking options.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Ryan Park defended the extension of free parking for staff and patients in regional and rural hospitals while their city counterparts paid.

“Most people would reasonably understand that there is a big difference between areas which don’t have access to public transport and regional and rural areas,’’ she said.

“Feedback from the community has raised concerns free parking for all staff at metro hospitals is crowding out-patients and carers from accessing parking.’’

There are no immediate plans for Westmead Hospital staff to strike.