NURSES have been left with ‘four-figure bills’ from having their cars vandalised as a result of a long-running dispute over Barnsley Hospital staff parking on side streets, whistleblowers have claimed.
Residential areas off Summer Lane, including Blackburn Lane and Welbeck Street, have become a ‘war zone’ between fed-up residents – who have resorted to putting their wheelie bins on the road 24/7 to prevent parking – and members of staff.
Nurses told the Chronicle this week that several cars had been daubed with a ‘tar-like’ substance, resulting in four-figure bills to rectify the damage.
“It’s been bad for a while and I understand residents’ frustration, but damaging people’s cars isn’t fair,” one nurse, who did not wish to be named, said. “We’re not on huge wages and many of us can’t afford to pay hundreds of pounds a month on parking fees.
“I have never parked illegally or blocked driveways but I feel scared to leave my vehicle while I’m working, afraid of what I might come back to after having paid thousands in repair bills in the past.”
Currently, NHS trusts are responsible for making their own car parking arrangements, including setting charges, and any profits must be reinvested into frontline care.
Disabled people, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of sick children staying overnight and staff working night shifts will not have to pay for car parking from April.
Hospital bosses admitted that the current parking provision is simply not big enough, with approximately 3,800 staff – excluding visitors – battling over 1,200 spaces.
“The hospital site only has capacity for parking for about half of its staff and there’s insufficient capacity to cope with patient and visitor parking demand,” Coun Peter Fielding, who represents the Dodworth ward, added.
“Staff are increasingly suffering verbal abuse and damage to their vehicles from irate residents. It is becoming a very hostile situation that many hospital staff are finding unpleasant and residents find frustrating.
“The hospital would like to obtain a piece of land at Capitol Park to use as a park-and-ride service for both staff and patients and have set aside funding for the administration and operation of such a scheme, which I welcome.”
The Old Town ward’s Coun Phil Lofts welcomed the government’s changes but said it would not address issues during the day.
“There is a shortfall of 1,700 parking spaces at the hospital and that pushes people to park on residential streets in Old Town and surrounding wards, much to the inconvenience and annoyance of residents,” he added.
“The concessions by the government, which ensure that blue badge holders can park in the hospital, are welcome but it does not make parking available for visitors and nor does it ensure day staff are able to park in the hospital’s car parks.
“If we are to convince the hospital to accept their responsibility then Barnsley Council must cease facilitating free hospital parking on its streets at the cost to Old Town residents and force the hospital to accept its responsibility to provide on-site parking for all their staff and visitors.
“That can only be achieved by a residents-only parking zone.”
A hospital spokesperson said: “We recognise that this is a long-standing and difficult situation for our neighbours, staff, visitors and patients.
“We are continuing to invest where appropriate and we are working with the council to look at a number of options to try to improve the situation in as sustainable way as possible.”