Thousands sign petition against ERI parking charges

ERI staff are furious at price hike.  Pic: Toby Williams
ERI staff are furious at price hike. Pic: Toby Williams
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THOUSANDS of supporters have signed a petition against plans to more than double car parking charges at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

The Evening News reported on Thursday how the maximum tariff for staff, visitor and patients could increase from £7 to £15 - a staggering 114 per cent rise.

Now a petition launched online by ‘Angry Nurse’ has received more than 3,500 signatures in less than 24 hours.

Unison branch chair Tom Waterson said: “I’m delighted there’s a petition and I’m not surprised to see so much support for it already.”

Mr Waterson said “more than 100 staff” had contacted the union so far to complain about the plans, while he would meet with the Cabinet Secretary on Monday.

“We we do everything possible to ensure staff are not out of pocket, and it’s not just about staff - visitors and patients too,” said Mr Waterson.

“NHS Lothian say it’s part of contractual arrangements. I’ve asked them to show me the contract, show me where it’s said - I’m still waiting.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon vowed to ask Health Secretary Shona Robison to discuss the plans with NHS Lothian after being quizzed in Holyrood.

The fee hike plans have been slammed and follow the Evening News’ revelation that 614 staff are on the waiting list for car park permits at ERI - and 500 have been on it for more than five years.

NHS Lothian defended the £15 figure for staff, saying it had been developed to support its green travel plan and encourage them to use alternative modes of transport.

The board confirmed the proposal was still being discussed with the unions.

The online petition at Change.org will be delivered to ERI management once it reaches 5,000 signatures and labels the plans “unfair, unjust and unjustifiable”.

Teresa Coll signed and wrote: “I’m signing because it’s a disgrace!!!!!!! Nursing staff don’t earn enough and should not be expected to bus or walk a mile to their car after a 12-hour shift.”

Hazel McAulay wrote: “It is ridiculous that a company is making money from those attending or working at a hospital.”

And Mervyn Graham asked: “What’s the rationale behind this? No need, just pure greed.”

There are currently 594 parking spaces for patients and visitors at the ERI and a staff car park with 1125 spaces.

An extra 273 visitor spaces and 60 disabled and drop-off spaces will be added once the new Sick Kids Hospital opens. The cost of a permit for staff is set to rise from £250 to £300.

George Curley, director of operations/facilities at NHS Lothian, said this would be the first parking charge increases since the hospital opened in 2003, except for a VAT rise.

He said they were “lucky” to have a ‘Park and Ride’ service two miles away which provided regular links to the hospital while Edinburgh’s public transport was “excellent”.

“These proposals have been developed to protect car parking spaces for patients and to support our green travel plan which encourages staff to use alternative modes of transport,” added Mr Curley.