Free parking for first two hours at hospital

Free parking for first two hours at hospital

9 October 2019

HEALTH chiefs have confirmed that when parking charges are introduced at the Downe and Downshire Hospital sites in Downpatrick next year, the first two hours will be free.

Last month, the district’s most senior health chief confirmed that while charges are likely to be introduced, nothing is going to happen before the end of March.

Seamus McGoran, acting South Eastern Trust chief executive, told hospital campaigners at a meeting in Downpatrick that implementing parking charges was part of 

Department of Health regional policy.

He said health trusts have been told that money they are provided with for health and social services must not be used to maintain car parks, explaining departmental policy on the issue is very clear.

Mr McGoran said health trusts have been told that they should be charging people to use hospital car parks, explaining that charges were introduced at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald 15 years ago as commuters were leaving their vehicles in the car park and getting a bus into Belfast.

While the health chief conceded that this would not be a problem in Downpatrick, the views of local people during a consultation on the issue were listened to.

Mr McGoran also confirmed that the introduction of parking charges at the Downpatrick hospital sites was “at the back end of the health trust’s priorities” on the management of both locations.

In addition, he said charges would not be introduced in the current financial year and that all income generated would be used to maintain and manage the car park, including the provision of CCTV and new lighting.

However, he said people will see new barriers going up as part of the preparatory work ahead of the new charging regime being introduced.

South Down MLA Colin McGrath has welcomed confirmation that parking for the first two hours will be free. He said this means that patients attending GP clinics in the hospital will not have to pay.

“Car parking charges at our hospital sites is wrong and shouldn’t happen,” the MLA declared.

“However, they are required by the Department of Health and health trusts have had to introduce them. The Downe Hospital is lucky in that the South Eastern area it is the last site to have them introduced.”

Mr McGrath said when news of the charging policy was initially confirmed, there were a number of concerns about the impact it would have on patients attending GP surgeries in the Downe Hospital and people attending functions staged in the Great Hall at the Downshire site.

“The Great Hall is effectively a civic space and hosts many events organised by local groups and charities in the evenings and weekends.

“At the Downshire site, no parking charges will apply outside normal business hours which is also welcome news,” he said.

The MLA added: “I do not welcome the introduction of parking charges at the hospital sites, but am glad that they will not impact in GP patients and those attending functions in the Great Hall.”