Health chiefs confirmed permits will be reintroduced on 17 January to help tackle a parking crisis which has seen those travelling to the site stuck in three-mile queues.
It follows reports of medics coming in hours before their shifts to get a space and avoid walking off campus in the dark.
Concerns were raised over delays for patients, visitors and staff and serious issues for blue light services.
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But some staff say that the permit scheme will lead those workers who do not get the coveted permits to look for alternative work.
With a week to go before the permits come into force a petition started by staff at the hospital against the move had topped 14,700 signatures on Tuesday.
One staff member said: “It is alright for the consultants and senior doctors, they will get permits. It is the porters and junior staff who will lose out here.”
The petition states:
"After two years of working tirelessly fighting against COVID-19, this is the thanks we get from the NHS Trust. Many healthcare professionals work 12.5 hour shifts. These changes will mean many staff will be adding up to 2 hours journey time onto an already long day.
“With the new variant spreading fast amongst the country the NHS are severely short staffed more than normal. Staff are on their knees and it will only get worse. Staff are looking for alternative posts at different hospitals and bank/agency staff wont be picking up shifts due to not being eligible for permits to park on site. Making the hospitals unsafe with staffing levels.
“We need this re-evaluated and suitable solutions offered to protect staff well-being and prevent further staff shortfalls at the RIE site.”
There are 1280 staff parking spaces on the ERI site for around 6000 staff, not including the new Royal Hospital for Children and the Department of Clinical Neurosciences.
Unison welcomed the reintroduction of permits saying it worked well for staff but others including Lothians MSP Miles Briggs have called for a wider transport review at the PFI hospital.
Jim Crombie, Deputy Chief Executive, NHS Lothian, said: “The Royal Infirmary has become seriously congested because of the sheer volume of cars. Patients are unable to park to attend appointments, staff car parks are full and buses are suffering long delays. The problems also cause serious issues for our blue light services.
“As a result, we are reintroducing the free staff car-parking permit scheme as one of several measures to help manage demand and free up the site.
“We have worked closely with staff and Partnership over recent months to assess alternatives and introduce new schemes to support our teams. Regular information updates were also widely communicated.
“A regular, free staff shuttle bus service, which takes 10 minutes, will be introduced and run between Sheriffhall Park and the RIE site. A car-share scheme has also been developed to enable as many staff as possible to travel to the campus by car when COVID-19 guidance allows car sharing to resume.”