Interior Health nurses are being buried in parking tickets during the pandemic | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Interior Health nurses are being buried in parking tickets during the pandemic

Patients and visitors often find the Kelowna General Hospital parkade is full because hospital staff are parking there for free.
December 23, 2020 - 6:00 AM

Interior Health is cracking down on staff taking over public parking spots and nurses say they are feeling threatened.

After being able to park with little or no enforcement since April 1 in a public parkade, staff at Kelowna General Hospital were emailed a memo on Nov. 27 saying the Interior Health parking policy would be enforced effective Dec. 1.

That meant no more free parking in the public parkade next to the hospital because that violated the policy.

“We try and get to work on time, put in hard, stressful hours helping our patients,” one Kelowna nurse, who didn’t want her name used, told “Then we come out to tickets on our cars. Something has to be done. We are all very frustrated.”

In Kamloops, nurses are getting numerous tickets for parking in the public lot next to the hospital. They face a walk of up to 30 minutes to and from their staff parking lot.

"That just adds to the anxiety and stress nurses are already feeling as we’re moving through this pandemic,” Nurses Union President Christine Sorenson said. They’re also often walking in the dark in all kinds of weather.

READ MORE: Why Kamloops nurses must speak up anonymously, even about parking

The emails were sent to Kelowna staff members shortly after Interior Health was contacted about a shortage of parking for patients in the public parkade.

“By the time I drove around and found a place to park, then walked all that way, I was late for my appointment,” Linda Frisbee told recently of her experience trying to get to the hospital for a medical procedure.

Another woman – a senior who uses a walker – found the parkade full so she had to trudge for 25 minutes from the closest parking spot she could find. Then she had to hike back to her car.

“We encourage patients, especially those who have mobility challenges, to get dropped off by a family member if that is possible and suggest all patients come to any appointments early to allow time for parking,” Interior Health said in an email to iNFOnews.

Initially, they said they could not tell the difference between staff and private vehicles.

“When parking patrollers notice staff parking in patient areas, they may follow up and issue a ticket; this could be in Kelowna, Kamloops or other paid parking hospitals,” they said later.

The Kelowna nurse said there was a security guard at the parkade entrance but there was no sign of one when visited the site on a few occasions.

Interior Health has not responded to questions about that and other allegations made by the nurse, saying that no one is available to respond until January.

Earlier this month, the nurse was sent another email stating she was a “Multiple Offender” for having a number of unpaid parking tickets. That was copied to her manager. 

That manager was copied on the warning to ensure the complaint was followed up on, she was told.

Interior Health’s parking policy includes wording about discipline “up to and including termination,” if it’s violated.

The nurse, and many of her coworkers, don’t believe the violation notices have to be paid because they’re just notices from a private company and not a municipal parking ticket, she said.

But, she believes, not paying them meant she was violating that policy. Fearing that her job was on the line, she paid hundreds of dollars to the parking lot operator. A sign in the parkade says the violation fee is $69.

“Their tactic, now, is to go after staff with tickets outstanding and involving management, which I find is a bit of a dirty play on their behalf,” the nurse said.

She doesn’t know if other staff received similar multiple offender emails or whether she was being singled out.

There are not a lot of alternatives for those, like her, on the waiting list for staff parking.

There is paid parking on some streets but that’s only good for two hours. Staff using it have to leave every two hours to move their vehicles or face a parking ticket from the city.

The nurse parked a few blocks away where there were no time limits but, in October, had to replace two tires after someone – she assumes an angry resident – put screws in them.

The situation may ease a little in the spring when a 75-stall staff parkade is set to open. But, a January 2019 report on plans for the Kelowna hospital area that went to city council, said there was a shortfall of 300 to 500 space. That resulted in the new parkade being built.

Interior Health, as with other questions, did not say how many people are still on the waiting list.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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