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COMMENT: Now we have to queue for parking at our hospitals

Monday, 4th February, 2019 7:59am

Story by Tony McCullagh
COMMENT: Now we have to queue for parking at our hospitals

Beaumont Hospital’s car park. PHOTO: Darren Kinsella

COMMENT: Now we have to queue for parking at our hospitals

Beaumont Hospital’s car park. PHOTO: Darren Kinsella

WHEN it comes to our health service, there’s a lot of waiting involved. 

Emergency departments in particular are not for the squeamish. And even if you manage to get through this hellish experience, you may end up languishing on a trolley in a corridor until a hospital bed becomes available.

It’s no fun being an outpatient either. You could be waiting months, or even years, to see a consultant, unless you are nudged down the private route where the very same doctor can see you within a matter of weeks. If it’s then determined that you need a CT scan or MRI – just to rule out anything sinister and put your mind at rest – you also need to be prepared for a long wait. In the face of such worry and uncertainty, many patients will also opt to go private and pay for the scan themselves.

You can’t put a price on peace of mind – unless, of course, you have no health insurance and simply can’t afford it.

These days, you have to queue just to get into a hospital car park. On two occasions last month, I personally witnessed long tailbacks into Beaumont Hospital’s car park. Some of the frustrated motorists stuck in their cars may have been visiting sick friends or relatives, but others would have had appointments of varying degrees of urgency to attend.

As a result, there was absolute chaos as people scrambled to find alternative parking in nearby residential areas. And when I say nearby, I mean at least a 20-minute walk away, heaping further pressure on those already late for appointments. The word fiasco really doesn’t do it justice.

Having to pay for parking in a public hospital in the first place has always been a bugbear of mine. It may be a financial reality that hospitals have to charge to provide such facilities, but it always strikes me as somewhat immoral and insensitive – especially when it is often the case that you are dealing with people who may be in a vulnerable state, be they a patient with health issues or concerned relatives.

It got me thinking about the scandalous cost overruns for the new National Children’s Hospital at St James’s and has made me once again question the wisdom of locating such a major facility in an area already choked with traffic congestion. As politically unpalatable as it may be, perhaps there is still time for a change of plan and look afresh at the Connolly Hospital option.

There have been renewed calls in recent weeks for the Blanchardstown site, which is located just off the M50, to be reconsidered. It wouldn’t be the first time that the Government has had to go back to the drawing board  - millions was also wasted on the scrapped Mater Hospital plan.

Opponents of the St James’s location have not only raised issues of concern about potential traffic problems in the area, they also believe that parking facilities at the National Children’s Hospital will be inadequate.

It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the health service when patients encounter a crisis before they even get out of their cars.

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