Altnagelvin Hospital has moved to convert almost a third of its previously free disabled parking bays into pay and display spaces, the Derry News has learned.
Local councillor Gary Donnelly has said the decision will ‘seriously impact’ some of the most vulnerable members of the community and cause ‘considerable disruption’ for disabled users.
The Western Trust confirmed that the changes will affect 13 disabled spaces at South Wing and 16 at the Main Out Patients Entrance.
The Trust will retain 60 free disabled car parking spaces on the site.
A Western Trust spokesperson explained: “Over the past number of weeks, as part of resetting our services, the Trust has recommenced a number of capital works schemes which were suspended in March 2020, including enabling works for car parking projects.
“The car parking works on the Altnagelvin site are aimed at increasing capacity and improving utilisation of all spaces on the site which is really important in terms of meeting the demand for parking on the site.
“These works include changes to enable allocation of free spaces for staff in the Multi-storey and Cancer Centre Car parks, increase in drop off/pick up spaces at South Wing Main Entrance as well as re-designation of spaces at hospital entrances will help ensure that these spaces are available for those who attend the site for appointments or to visit for short periods of time.
“This will help ensure turnover of these spaces and that they are available for our patients and visitors.”
Asked when this will come into effect and why was it deemed necessary, the spokesperson added: “This has not yet come into effect but it is likely to be implemented in line with the Trust’s timeline for reinstating paid parking on the site.
“The Trust is implementing these changes to help ensure these disabled spaces are available right up at hospital entrances for patients and visitors.
“The Trust has been monitoring the use of these spaces and it would appear these spaces are parked in all day by staff and this provision is now being relocated to the Multi-Storey and Cancer Centre car parks where the disabled spaces are currently under-utilised.
“The Trust does have in place a number of provisions to support our patients and visitors in terms of parking – this includes free parking for those on benefits or low income and for those who are attending the hospital site very frequently and/or for lengthy periods of time.
“All of this information is available from our Support Services Team in the hospital.”
Derry City & Strabane District Councillor Gary Donnelly said the decision to remove free parking at these disabled bays has caused ‘concern’ from both staff and visitors.
He continued: “The reasons offered by the Trust for this is far from clear and needs to be clarified. I have been contacted by staff who are concerned that a proper consultation process wasn’t carried out.
“This will have a serious effect on some of the most vulnerable members of our community and will cause considerable disruption to disabled users. I would call on the Trust to reverse this decision immediately.”
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