John Hunter nurses and midwives fight for free parking

Lower Hunter nurses and midwives are angry and deflated over the NSW government’s decision to reinstate paid parking for staff at John Hunter Hospital.

Following the re-introduction of paid parking at metropolitan hospitals on 1 February, nurses and midwives began paying $20.90 a week for access to the hospital car park. As a result, essential healthcare workers will fork out more than $1700 in one year to park at work.

Given the cost-of-living crisis, lack of affordable housing and a surge in COVID-19 presentations, the decision to slap nurses and midwives with parking fees has been considered a major blow.

Members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) rallied outside the hospital in their own time and called on the government to value the hard work of Hunter nurses and midwives by immediately revoking its decision.

NSWNMA John Hunter and John Hunter Children’s Hospital Branch Secretary, Matthew Rispen, said the government was wrong to compare John Hunter to other metropolitan hospitals, as the same public transport networks simply did not exist.

“Efficient public transport options around Newcastle and the Lower Hunter are extremely limited, especially outside traditional business hours. Many of our nurses and midwives work unsociable hours, including at night and on weekends, when public transport options are not available,” Mr Rispen said.

“John Hunter is also experiencing a significant upgrade, which has further increased traffic around the hospital and significantly affects parking availability, with around 150 staff parking spaces currently closed for construction works. These works are expected to continue for at least another 18 months.

“For day and afternoon shifts, nurses and midwives are arriving at least an hour prior to their shift in an attempt to secure a staff parking space, or risk being late for their shift. Meanwhile, on night shift, staff are still required to pay for parking in an almost empty car park.”

John Hunter Hospital has also been dealing with an influx of COVID-19 cases over recent months.

“We have seen an uptick in positive cases, resulting in a reintroduction of masks and an increase in staff on sick leave with COVID-19, meaning nurses and midwives are working short staffed or being asked to pick up overtime shifts,” Mr Rispen said.

“Nurses and midwives are being expected to return to pre-COVID times, financially, while still having to work with COVID-19, professionally.”

NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Michael Whaites, says the government’s decision to reintroduce paid parking for healthcare workers show a lack of regard and appreciation for the workforce.

“The below inflation 4% pay increase that public sector nurses and midwives received in 2023 is being clawed back by the government’s decision to rescind free parking,” said Mr Whaites.

“It isn’t right that our hardworking healthcare staff should be slugged these fees while trying to care for our community.”

“These car parking changes have the potential to further hinder recruitment and retention of health staff and we call on the NSW government to urgently reconsider this decision.”

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