Comedy of errors surrounds parking at Royal Inland Hospital

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
November 21, 2017 - 6:40am

KAMLOOPS — I never thought I’d be writing about this again.  The entire situation has been a comedy of errors.  Yet once again, here I am talking about the ongoing saga of parking at Royal Inland Hospital - A story about the Interior Health Authority’s apparent inability to grasp the fundamentals of effectively managing the parking situation at RIH.


As a quick refresher - Previous to building the Clinical Services Building (CSB), parking at the hospital was a nightmare.  Patients, visitors and staff competed for the very limited available parking space.  There was not enough space for any one group and as a result all suffered.


Enter the new CSB building with hundreds of new parking spaces intended, as stated by Lorne Sisley, Corporate Director, Facilities Management & Operations for IHA,  “...for patient and visitor parking, with the parkade at the rear of the hospital designated for staff pass holder parking.”


It was a match made in parkade heaven and for a time, worked almost flawlessly by offering a solution designed to help hospital users during what is normally a stressful time of their lives.


Then there was the first hiccup.  Seems the parking lot designers and project manager forgot that people around here drive pickups and the exit lanes they had built were not designed to handle much beyond compact cars, let alone pickups.  Traffic snarls, parking lot road rage and flared tempers ensued until the IHA was forced to rip out a lane and reduce exit capacity down to one.


At the same time the City was widening and improving Columbia St. in front of the CSB and their plans didn’t include allowing anyone to make a left turn out of the lot.  The solution?  Spend $300,000 for a mini roundabout on 5th and Nicola to allow those lefties a rather drawn out and confusing means of getting back onto Columbia.


That was followed by what I thought - until now that is - was the most inept and short-sighted misadventure, the switch from pay for hours used, to guess and pay for hours you think you might use.  A get rich quick scheme for the IHA but a source of stress and frustration for those the parking lot was originally designed for...patients and visitors.


I say ‘originally designed for’ because it seems for all intents and purposes, we’ve been hoodwinked on who exactly the Clinical Services Building parking lot has been built for.


If you’ve tried to park at RIH lately, you’ve probably noticed your chances of finding a space anytime after 7 AM are slim to none.  And during the rest of the day, the rotation of car spaces has been limited, indicating those using them are there all day.  And the sign that use to tell you about availability has been unplugged.


If you haven’t figured it out already, the probable cause for this had nothing to do with increased patient load or longer procedures resulting in longer stays.  No, it has everything to do with staff being allowed to use the CSB parking lot, meaning we are back to the future where patients and visitors compete with staff for parking.


I asked Lorne Sisley of the IHA about staff parking at the expense of patients and visitors and if he could give me an idea of how many staff are using the lot.  Sisley responded, saying, “While we continue to encourage staff to set aside the parking stalls in the CSB parkade for patients and visitors, we are aware that some staff who do not have a parking pass (such as part-time or casual staff members) choose to park there and pay the public daily rate.”  Adding, “As these staff members are using the public parking system, we are unable to differentiate the number of staff members versus patients and visitors parking in the CSB parkade.”


In some municipalities such as Campbell River, City Council took a stand on hospital parking.  They were paying attention, they were listening and they were engaged. Like Duncan, Port Alberni, Delta and Langford they even went as far as to pass by-laws preventing hospital authorities from charging for parking.


Maybe we don’t have to go that far but shouldn’t someone at City Hall be fighting on our behalf to get our hospital parking back to what had originally been promised?


Until that happens, the IHA will continue to take advantage of the management and responsibility void created by local government.